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UNITED STATES v. VENTO

November 22, 1988

UNITED STATES
v.
STEVEN VENTO



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRODERICK

 RAYMOND J. BRODERICK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

 On November 19, 1984, following a jury trial, defendant Steven Vento was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to import, possess and distribute phenyl-2-propanone ("P2P") and to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (Count I); one count of possessing with intent to distribute P2P in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Count II); and two counts of distributing P2P in violation of U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Counts III and IV). On March 20, 1985, defendant Vento was sentenced by this court to three years imprisonment on Count I and five years imprisonment each on Counts II, III and IV, all sentences to run consecutively. In addition, in connection with Counts II, III and IV, defendant Vento was sentenced to a special parole term of twenty years.

 On July 15, 1986, Mr. Vento unsuccessfully attempted to escape from federal prison and subsequently plead guilty before the Honorable Malcolm Muir of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania to one count of attempted escape in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 751(a). Upon the motion of the government unopposed by defendant, Judge Muir deferred defendant's sentencing pending his cooperation with the government. On April 23, 1987, Judge Muir sentenced Mr. Vento to five years imprisonment.

 Mr. Vento timely filed, pursuant to Fed.R.Crim.P. 35, a motion for reduction of sentence. Upon request of the government, joined in by defendant, this court continued consideration of defendant's Rule 35 motion until after the completion of Mr. Vento's anticipated testimony at the trial in United States v. Scarfo, Cr. No. 87-258 (E.D.Pa.). An evidentiary hearing on defendant's motion was held on October 3, 1988. For the reasons stated below, this court will grant defendant's motion and reduce his sentence to time served as of July 15, 1986.

 It is well established that the granting or denial of a Rule 35(b) motion for reduction of sentence is addressed to the sound discretion of the district court. Diggs v. United States, 740 F.2d 239, 249 (3d Cir. 1984); United States v. Mariano, 646 F.2d 856, 858 (3d Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 856, 70 L. Ed. 2d 150, 102 S. Ct. 304 (1981). As is the case when a defendant is originally sentenced, a meaningful determination of a Rule 35(b) motion involves an "inquiry broad in scope, largely unlimited either as to the kind of information [the sentencing judge] may consider, or the source from which it may come." United States v. Grayson, 438 U.S. 41, 50, 98 S. Ct. 2610, 2615-16, 57 L. Ed. 2d 582 (1978). The sentencing judge may, of course, consider factual information developed subsequent to sentencing. See ABA Standards for Criminal Justice, 2d ed. 1980, pp. 18-501 -18-502.

 Among the factors properly considered by a court in determining a Rule 35(b) motion is the degree to which defendant has cooperated with the government in further criminal investigations and prosecutions. Indeed, as the Third Circuit has stated, in United States v. Garcia :

 
[A] court may properly invoke its power to grant lenity to those who, having admitted transgressions against the sovereign, thereafter assist the sovereign in improving social order and the public welfare.

 544 F.2d 681, 682 (3d Cir. 1976); see also United States v. Mariano, 646 F.2d 856, 858-59 (3d Cir. 1981); United States v. Bethany, 489 F.2d 91, 93 (5th Cir. 1974); United States v. Dawson, 642 F.2d 1060, 1062 (7th Cir. 1981); United States v. Unterman, 433 F. Supp. 647, 648 (S.D.N.Y. 1977).

 This court notes that the government not only supported defendant Vento's motion for reduction of sentence but also presented testimony from law enforcement officials concerning the scope and significance of Mr. Vento's cooperation with ongoing criminal investigations. Specifically, Mr. Martin Pracht, Special Agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration stated, in pertinent part:

 
I first became associated with Mr. Vento in the summer of 1986 when he began to cooperate with members of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and the other agencies. He provided intelligence and information to us involving several investigations and was basically the first, what I consider important witness to help us in an investigation into the La Cosa Nostra's control over the importation of P2P from Europe into the United States and distributions to local dealers here in the Philadelphia area. . . . Mr. Vento helped us by identifying people that he himself had worked with or had knowledge of working with, involving drug networks here in the Philadelphia area. He was also willing and did make introductions of undercover agents to various people in Philadelphia and elsewhere and also wrote letters of introduction on behalf of undercover agents to help us, assist us in ongoing operations.

 Hearing (10/3/88), pp. 3-4. Agent Pracht further testified that Mr. Vento's cooperation led to the seizure of over 1,000 kilograms of P2P, 20 kilograms of meth. cocaine, over $ 5 million in financial assets, the arrest of over seventy people, and the removal from the streets of an organization responsible for the distribution in the Philadelphia area of over 2,000 pounds of methamphetamine. Id. at 5-6.

 Further evidence of the significance of Mr. Vento's cooperation was provided by Mr. Gary W. Langan, Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation:

 
I would consider him to be the spoke in the wheel so to speak -- if the spoke wasn't there, the wheel would not have turned. His cooperation was ...

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