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United States v. Douglas

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

December 21, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CHARLES DOUGLAS

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JON E. DEGUILIO Judge

         Defendant Charles Douglas was convicted for possessing a firearm as a felon. At sentencing, the Court found that Mr. Douglas had four prior convictions for serious drug offenses or violent felonies, so it sentenced Mr. Douglas under the Armed Career Criminal Act, which increases the statutory penalties for this offense for defendants with three or more qualifying convictions. The Supreme Court subsequently struck a portion of the definition of “violent felony” under the Armed Career Criminal Act and made that rule retroactive to cases on collateral review. Mr. Douglas believes that, in light of those holdings, he no longer qualifies as an armed career criminal, so he has filed a motion under § 2255 asking to be resentenced. The Court finds, however, that Mr. Douglas still has at least three qualifying convictions, so his sentence remains lawful and his motion must be denied.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In October 2012, Mr. Douglas drew the scrutiny of law enforcement officers for dealing drugs and for running a prostitution ring. Officers executed a search warrant at his home, where they found a loaded shotgun, among other items. Mr. Douglas was a felon, and in fact had an extensive criminal history, making his possession of the shotgun unlawful. He was charged and pled guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). At sentencing, the Presentence Report found that Mr. Douglas had 23 criminal history points, including five convictions for serious drug offenses or violent felonies under the Armed Career Criminal Act. Those included: (1) a 1993 juvenile adjudication for robbery; (2) a 1996 conviction for dealing in cocaine; (3) 2006 convictions for criminal confinement and battery resulting in serious bodily injury, committed in 2003; (4) a 2004 conviction for residential entry; and (5) a 2006 conviction for battery resulting in serious bodily injury, committed in 2005.

         Mr. Douglas agreed that his conviction for dealing cocaine was a serious drug offense and that his conviction for residential entry was a violent felony pursuant to the residual clause, but he objected to the classification of the remaining offenses. The Court sustained his objection as to the juvenile adjudication for robbery, finding that the government had not provided suitable judicial records to establish that the offense involved the use of a firearm, as is required for juvenile offenses. The Court overruled the other objections, though, finding that criminal confinement qualified as a violent felony under the residual clause, and that battery resulting in serious bodily injury qualified as a violent felony under the elements clause. Mr. Douglas thus had enough qualifying convictions to be sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act, which markedly increased the statutory penalties and advisory guideline range for his offense. The Court imposed a sentence accordingly. Mr. Douglas did not appeal, but he has now filed a motion under § 2255, which has been fully briefed.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Section 2255(a) of Title 28 provides that a federal prisoner “claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). The Seventh Circuit has recognized that § 2255 relief is appropriate only for “an error of law that is jurisdictional, constitutional, or constitutes a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice.” Harris v. United States, 366 F.3d 593, 594 (7th Cir. 2004). Further, a “Section 2255 motion is neither a recapitulation of nor a substitute for a direct appeal.” Olmstead v. United States, 55 F.3d 316, 319 (7th Cir. 1995); Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 621 (1998) (stating that habeas review “will not be allowed to do service for an appeal”). Relief under § 2255 is extraordinary because it seeks to reopen the criminal process to a person who has already had an opportunity of full process. Almonacid v. United States, 476 F.3d 518, 521 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing Kafo v. United States, 467 F.3d 1063, 1068 (7th Cir. 2006)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Mr. Douglas asks that his sentence be vacated in light of Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551, 2563 (2015), which held that a sentence imposed based on the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act violates a defendant's constitutional right to due process. The Supreme Court declared in Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257, 1265 (2016), that Johnson is retroactive, so Mr. Douglas is entitled to a resentencing if he can establish that, without the residual clause, he no longer has at least three convictions for serious drug offenses or violent felonies. The government has expressly waived any procedural defenses to this motion, so the Court proceeds to the merits of Mr. Douglas' claim.

         A defendant who unlawfully possesses a firearm typically faces a term of imprisonment of up to 10 years. 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2). The Armed Career Criminal Act increases those penalties to a mandatory minimum of 15 years and a maximum of life for defendants with three prior convictions for serious drug offenses or violent felonies. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). The statute defines the term “violent felony” as:

any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year . . . that-
(i) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another; or
(ii) is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another[.]

18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B). In Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 2560, the Supreme Court held that the “residual clause” of this definition-the portion that defines a violent felony as an offense that “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another”- is so vague as to violate the Constitution's guarantee of due process, so it struck that clause. However, Johnson did not address or alter the enumerated offenses-burglary, arson, extortion, and offenses involving the use of explosives-or the “elements clause, ” which applies to offenses that have “as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another.” Id. at 2563. Thus, a sentence under the Armed Career ...


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