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United States v. Teague

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

March 8, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Omarr D. Teague, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued December 8, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 3:16-cr-30079 - Staci M. Yandle, Judge.

          Before Kanne and Rovner, Circuit Judges, and Durkin, District Judge. [*]

          Kanne, Circuit Judge.

         Prior convictions for crimes of violence subject a defendant to a higher base offense level under the federal Sentencing Guidelines. Because the district court below erroneously concluded that the offense of second degree murder under Illinois law is not a crime of violence, we reverse.

         I. Background

         Omarr Teague pled guilty to possession of a weapon by a felon. In a Presentence Investigation Report, the United States Probation Department assigned a base offense level of 14. The government objected, claiming the base level should be 20 because Teague had previously been convicted of a crime of violence, namely second degree murder under Illinois law. At the sentencing hearing, the district court overruled the government's objection, concluding second degree murder as defined in Illinois law is not a crime of violence because it is not limited to intentional murder. Based on this conclusion, the court found that the total offense level was 15, that Teague had a category II criminal history, and therefore that the applicable Guideline range was 21-27 months' imprisonment. The court sentenced Teague to a term of 21 months' imprisonment, a two-year term of supervised release, a $150 fine, and a $100 special assessment. The government appeals, challenging only the district court's conclusion that second degree murder under Illinois law is a crime of violence.

         II. Analysis

         The Sentencing Guidelines provide that if a defendant convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm committed any part of the offense subsequent to sustaining a felony conviction for a crime of violence, the base offense level should be 20. U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1(a)(4)(A). The Guidelines define "crime of violence" as:

"any offense under federal or state law punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, that (1) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another, or (2) is murder, voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping, aggravated assault, a forcible sex offense, robbery, arson, extortion, or the use or unlawful possession of a firearm described in 26 U.S.C. § 5845(a) or explosive material as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 841(c)."

U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2. The first clause is referred to as the "elements clause" and the second is known as the "enumerated offenses" clause. See Brown v. Caraway, 719 F.3d 583, 589 (7th Cir. 2013).

         On appeal, the government contends that the Illinois offense of second degree murder is a crime of violence under both prongs, and that the district court's erroneous interpretation of the Illinois statute led to an improperly computed Guideline range. A sentence based on an improperly computed Guideline range must be vacated and remanded unless "the sentencing court firmly indicated that it would impose the same sentence regardless of any sentencing error." United States v. Zahurksy, 580 F.3d 515, 528 (7th Cir. 2009). The district court made no such indication in this case. So Teague must be resentenced if his second degree murder conviction qualifies as a crime of violence. Our review of this issue is de novo. United States v. Edwards, 836 F.3d 831, 834 (7th Cir. 2016).

         A. Elements Clause

         To be a crime of violence, the offense must have as an element the intentional or knowing use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another. "'Elements' are the 'constituent parts' of a crime's legal definition-the things the 'prosecution must prove to sustain a conviction.'" Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243, 2248 (2016) (quoting Black's Law Dictionary 634 (10th ed. 2014)). To sustain a second degree murder conviction under Illinois law, the prosecution ...


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