Archive | ACCA

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Manslaughter is Not a “Crime of Violence”

keep-calm

In a recent ruling, Judge Woods of the Southern District held first-degree manslaughter in violation of N.Y. Penal Law § 125.20(1) is not a “crime of violence” under the pre-August 1, 2016, Career Offender Guideline, U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2.  A person commits such manslaughter when, “[w]ith intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he causes the death of such person or of a third person.”

Judge Woods first held this offense does not qualify under the Guideline’s residual clause as that clause was “rendered void” by Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015).  The judge next held the offense does not qualify under the Guideline’s force clause because “one can be found guilty of manslaughter under the New York statute on the basis of an omission.” Specifically, “the failure to perform a legally imposed duty” permits conviction if the inaction leads to another’s death.  People


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Categories: ACCA, career offender, crime of violence, manslaughter, murder

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Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

U.S. v. Jones: Hold That Thought…

patience_2014_01_31-22

In United States v. Jones, previously blogged about here, the Second Circuit held New York robbery is not a categorical “crime of violence” under the Career Offender Guideline, U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2.  The Court’s opinion was based in part on the view, shared by the government and all but one of the circuits, that the Guideline’s residual clause is “likely void for vagueness in light of the Supreme Court’s analysis of the ACCA’s [Armed Career Criminal Act’s] identical phrase in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015).”

In an order published yesterday, the Court vacated the Jones opinion pending the Supreme Court’s decision in Beckles v. United States.  Beckles will decide whether the Guideline’s residual clause survived Johnson.  After Beckles is decided, a final judgment will issue in Jones.

Takeaways for the Defense Bar

1.  In ACCA cases, the absence of Jones poses …


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Categories: ACCA, career offender, Johnson, robbery

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Thursday, July 21st, 2016

New York Robbery is Not a “Crime of Violence”

marble rye-blog

In today’s United States v. Jones, the Second Circuit (Walker, Calabresi, Hall, C.JJ.) overruled its prior precedents in light of Johnson v. United States, 559 U.S. 133 (2010), and Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), to hold that “a first‐degree robbery conviction in New York is no longer necessarily a conviction for a ‘crime of violence’ as that term is used in the Career Offender Guideline.”

New York robbery, whatever its degree, is “forcible stealing” and requires actual or threatened “physical force upon another person.”  N.Y. Penal Law § 160.00.  This does not make the offense a “crime of violence,” the Circuit explained, because New York courts “have made clear that ‘forcible stealing’ alone does not necessarily involve the use of ‘violent force'” required to make something a “crime of violence” under the Guideline’s force clause.  “Violent force” is “strong” and “substantial,” Johnson, …


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Categories: ACCA, career offender, crime of violence, robbery

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Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Supreme Court reaffirms the categorical approach in ACCA cases

In Mathis v. United States, No. 15-6092, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the categorical approach to determining whether a prior conviction can give rise to the enhanced sentencing provisions of the ACCA.  If the elements of a state crime are broader than the elements listed in the generic offense, a conviction for the state crime cannot qualify as a predicate under the ACCA.  This remains true even if the defendant’s actual conduct fit within the definition of the generic offense.  In Mathis, the defendant’s prior conviction for burglary did not qualify as a prior violent offense under the ACCA because the Iowa burglary statute under which he was convicted — which listed “structures” and “vehicles” as alternative means for fulfilling one of the crime’s elements — was broader than generic burglary.  Even though his conduct had involved burglarizing a structure, that fact was “off-limits” to the sentencing judge.

Justice Kagan …


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Categories: ACCA, categorical approach

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Friday, April 22nd, 2016

Second Circuit Updates – April 22, 2016

After this week’s Supreme Court decision in Welch v. United States, — S. Ct. –, slip op. (April 18, 2016) (No. 15-6418), which found that Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015) is retroactive to those serving Armed Career Criminal sentences, the next big question is whether the rule in Johnson will apply retroactively to career offender guidelines cases. (Quick reminder: Johnson struck down the “residual clause” in ACCA as void-for-vagueness. Identical or nearly-identical language to the residual clause pops up in many other sentencing statutes and guidelines). Welch gives some cause for hope. In an amicus brief filed yesterday in support of petitioner Alfrederick Jones for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court (Alfrederick Jones v. United States, No. 15-8629), the Federal Public and Community Defenders and the National Association of Federal Defenders laid out the case for why the Supreme Court …


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Categories: ACCA, career offender, crime of violence, guideline, retroactivity

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Monday, April 18th, 2016

Johnson is Retroactive

onwards

In last year’s Johnson v. United States, the Supreme Court held the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) void for vagueness.

In today’s Welch v. United States, the Supreme Court held Johnson applies retroactively.  Only Justice Thomas dissented.

This means defendants serving final sentences — meaning ones previously affirmed on appeal — are now eligible for relief if they were sentenced under ACCA’s residual clause.  This is true even if they’re arguably subject to ACCA’s force/elements clause: though the government’s position was that Mr. Welch merits no relief because his prior conviction for Florida robbery falls under that clause, the Court said that’s debatable and remanded the case for further proceedings.

The question lurking in the shadows here, which Welch didn’t address, is whether Johnson also has the effect of retroactively invalidating the residual clauses of the Career Offender Guideline, 18 U.S.C. § 16, 18 …

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Categories: ACCA, retroactivity

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Saturday, January 21st, 2012

PC World

United States v. Baker, No. 10-1925-cr (2d Cir. January 12, 2012) (Pooler, Parker, Carney, CJJ) (per curiam)

This latest per curiam affirms an Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) sentence, rejecting the defendant’s claims that his Vermont prison escape convictions were not ACCA predicates. The statute at issue contains two distinct offenses – failure to report to custody, which is not a predicate, and escape from custody. Baker agreed that his convictions were for escape from custody, but argued that the district court should have looked beyond the charging instruments to determine whether his actual conduct posed a sufficient degree of risk to qualify.

The circuit disagreed. While a sentencing court can, and sometimes must, look beyond the charging instrument, it cannot go beyond the judicial record evidence. Where the defendant pled guilty, the offense is a predicate if the record establishes that his plea necessarily admitted elements of a predicate …


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Categories: ACCA, crime of violence, escape, Uncategorized

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Saturday, March 5th, 2011

PC World

As usual, sentencing issues occupy the court in its most recent pair of per curiam opinions.

In Brown v. United States, No. 09-3495-pr (2d Cir. March 1, 2011) (Winter, Livingson, Lynch, CJJ) (per curiam), an appeal of the denial of a § 2255 motion, the court rejected an argument that the Sentencing Guidelines’ treatment of prior convictions affected the application of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”). ACCA counts predicate convictions for crimes “committed on occasions different from one another” separately, even if the offenses happened on the same day, were not separated by an intervening arrest and concurrent sentences were imposed on the convictions in a single proceeding. For ACCA, the relevant considerations are only whether the victims and locations were different, and the degree to which the offenses were separated by the passage of time.

Brown had two prior robbery convictions that, under Guidelines section 4A1.2 – which …

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Categories: ACCA, fines, Uncategorized

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Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

PC World

United States v. Brown, No. 09-4991 (2d Cir. January 5, 2011) (Calabresi, Sack, Katzmann, CJJ) (per curiam)

The court’s latest per curiam holds that assaulting a correction officer, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-167c(a), satisfies the “catch-all” definition of “violent felony” in the Armed Career Criminal Act. Under Circuit law, an offense qualifies under the catch-all if it is both similar “in kind” and in “degree of risk posed” to the listed offenses of burglary, arson, extortion and the use of explosives.

The Connecticut offense is similar “in kind” because it requires the offender to intentionally prevent an officer from performing his duties, primarily in a prison setting, where “the act of injuring an employee for the purpose of preventing her from performing her official duties tends to entail especially violent consequences.”

As for the degree of risk posed, the court noted that the statute only applies where …


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Categories: ACCA, crime of violence, Uncategorized

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Friday, August 13th, 2010

Court Reads the Riot Act

United States v. Johnson, No. 08-5245-cr (2d Cir. August 2, 2010) (Cabranes, Parker, CJJ, Amon, DJ)

In this split decision, the majority held that a conviction for the Connecticut offense of “Rioting at a Correctional Institution” is a “violent felony” under the “otherwise involves” clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”).

In getting there, the majority looked beyond the statute’s title – which “suggests an obvious answer ” – to examine the conduct that the statute actually proscribes. The Connecticut statute provides that a person is “guilty of rioting at a correctional institution when he incites, instigates, organizes, connives at, causes, aides, abets, assists or takes part in any disorder, disturbance, strike, riot or other organized disobedience to the rules and regulations of such institution.” Connecticut courts have “clarified” the meaning of the statute, holding that it is “specifically directed” at those who lead or plan prison disturbances and …


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Categories: ACCA, crime of violence, Uncategorized

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Friday, July 10th, 2009

Daye of the Weak

United States v. Daye, No. 08-1012-cr (2d Cir. July 10, 2009) (Miner, Raggi, Livingston, CJJ)

Bruce Daye received an 180-month ACCA sentence. On appeal, he raised challenges to the use of all of his prior convictions as ACCA predicates, and the court sent the case back for further findings.

1. Escape

One of Daye’s prior convictions was for escape, most likely under Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 1501. At the time of his federal sentencing, circuit law provided that, categorically, all escape convictions were crimes of violence for ACCA. Thus, although defense counsel objected to the characterization of the escape as a crime of violence, the district court made no findings as to the nature of the escape, which is now dispositive under Chambers v. United States, 129 S.Ct. 687 (2009).

Here, the PSR strongly suggested that Daye’s conviction arose from failing to return from a furlough, rendering it …


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Categories: ACCA, crime of violence, Uncategorized

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