Archive | Johnson

Friday, May 12th, 2017

Johnson Win in WD Va – Court Holds New York First Degree Robbery is Divisible and Does not Satisfy the Force Clause; Sessions Memo Replaces Holder Memo on Charging Decisions

In U.S. v Batista, a Western District of Virginia  judge hold that New York first degree robbery is divisible, that defendant does not have the burden to produce Shepard documents, and the offense does not satisfy the force clause.
In less uplifting news, say goodbye to the Holder Memo.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent this memo on charging and sentencing policy to AUSAs this week, instructing them to charge and pursue the most serious charges.
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Monday, May 8th, 2017

Second Circuit Holds that Beckles does not Foreclose Johnson Claims Challenging Pre-Booker Sentences

In Nelson Vargas v. United States, No. 16-2112, the Second Circuit granted a motion for leave to file a second or successive Johnson-based 2255 petition challenging a 480- month pre-Booker career offender sentence.  The Court wrote:

“Although the Supreme Court held in Beckles v. United States that ‘[b]ecause they merely guide the district courts’ discretion, the Guidelines are not amenable to a vagueness challenge, ‘ 137 S.Ct. 886, 894 (2017), Beckles did not clearly foreclose the argument that this reasoning is inapplicable to the Petitioner’s circumstances, given that his sentence was imposed prior to United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), which rendered the previously mandatory Guidelines discretionary.”

NB:  The Federal Defenders represents Mr. Vargas.

 …

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Categories: 2255, Johnson

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Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

The Supreme Court Holds that the Advisory Guideline Are not Subject to Vagueness Challenges

In Beckles v. United States, 580 U.S. ___, 2017 WL 855781 (March 6, 2017) the Supreme Court held that Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S. 2551, 135 S.Ct. ___ (2015), does not apply to the Guidelines’ residual clause because “the advisory Guidelines are not subject to vagueness challenges under the Due Process clause.” Slip op. at 1. In an opinion by Justice Thomas, the Court’s reasoning was based on the advisory nature of the Guidelines since United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005). Slip op. at 7. Because the now advisory guidelines “merely guide the district court’s discretion,” they do not implicate the vagueness doctrine’s concerns with notice and arbitrary enforcement. Slip op. at 7-9. Justice Thomas noted that the decision did “not render the advisory Guidelines immune from constitutional scrutiny,” only void-for-vagueness scrutiny; they are still subject to ex post facto rules and Eighth Amendment …


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Categories: career offender, guideline, Johnson, vagueness

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Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

SCOTUS sets argument in Beckles v. United States for November 28, 2016

The Supreme Court has scheduled the oral argument in Beckles v. United States for Monday, November 28.

The issues in Beckles are whether the Court’s decision in Johnson v. United States applies retroactively on collateral review to cases challenging sentences imposed under the Career Offender Guideline, USSG 4B1.2(a)(2), whether Johnson renders that section of the Guidelines void for vagueness, and whether possession of a sawed-off shotgun remains a “crime of violence” for purposes of the Career Offender Guideline following Johnson.

Earlier this month, as discussed here, the Second Circuit vacated its decision in Jones v. United pending the outcome of Beckles.  Many Johnson-based 2255 petitions have been stayed pending the outcome as well.…

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Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

U.S. v. Jones: Hold That Thought…

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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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Friday, September 30th, 2016

Undercover officer liable for denying defendant’s right to a fair trial by fabricating evidence

Anyone trying to convince a judge or a jury that a police officer is lying, have hope! Kwame Garnett always asserted that an undercover officer was lying about his involvement in a drug buy and bust. Unlike many defendants, however, Mr. Garnett was able to convince the judge and jury that he proved that the undercover made up evidence. Not only did a jury acquit Mr. Garnett of state drug charges, but he also successfully sued the undercover officer under 42 U.S.C. §1983, arguing that the officer had denied him a fair trial by fabricating evidence. The jury awarded Mr. Garnett $1 in nominal damages and $20,000 in punitive damages. The undercover officer appealed. Today, in a unanimous opinion written by Judge Pooler, the Second Circuit affirmed the jury verdict.

Supreme Court Alert Reminder

In case you missed the news yesterday:

For everyone litigating Johnson claims based on 18 USC …

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Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Second Circuit Updates – September 29, 2016

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Johnson Applies to 18 U.S.C. 924(c)

The Supreme Court granted certiorari today in Lynch v. Dimaya, 15-1498, 2016 WL 3232911 (U.S., Sep. 29, 2016). The issue is whether the residual clause in 18 U.S.C. § 16(b), which has the same wording as the residual clause in 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), is void for vagueness under Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). The Ninth Circuit held in Dimaya that Johnson applies to the residual clause in section 924(c) and there is a split in the Circuits. In light of certiorari grant, district judges should be urged not to deny Johnson claims involving section 924(c) convictions based on the Second Circuit’s decision in United States v. Hill, __ F.3d __, 2016 WL 4120667 (2d Cir. Aug.3, 2016). Courts should instead await the decision in Dimaya and resolution of the Hill rehearing …


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Categories: 924(c), ineffective assistance of counsel, Johnson

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Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

An Uphill Battle

United States v. Elvin Hill, No. 14-3872-cr (Circuit Judges: Jacobs, Livingston, and Droney).(Disclosure: This is an appeal that this Office litigated).

In this direct appeal,  Mr.  Hill argued: (1)  that Hobbs Act robbery (18 U.S.C. § 1951) did not “categorically” constitute a “crime of violence” under the “force” clause of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3);  and (2) that Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015)  applied to the residual clause of  § 924(c)(3), which is worded similarly to that of the ACCA statute — 18 U.S.C.. § 924(e)(2)(B) — and that Johnson rendered 924(c)(3)’s residual void for vagueness. Both claims were rejected by the Circuit.

The Cateqorical approach: The Circuit stated that it was applying the “categorical approach” in determining whether the predicate crime (the Hobbs Act robbery) was a “crime of violence” under §924(c).  The categorical approach looks only to the statutory definition of the predicate …


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Categories: 924(c), crime of violence, Hobbs Act, Johnson

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More to Follow

Johnson (Bad) News:

Today, the Circuit  decided  Hill adverse to the defendant. It holds that Hobbs Act Robbery is “categorically” a “Crime of Violence” under 18 U.S.C.§ 924(c)(3).  It also holds that Johnson does not apply to § 924(c): i.e., it does not  “effectively render[]  the ‘risk-of-force clause’” of § 924(c) “void for vagueness.” United States v. Elvin Hill, No. 14-3872-cr (Jacobs, Livingston, and Droney).

We are still digesting the Opinion. More will follow.  But defense counsel will still have to raise and litigate these claims until the Supreme Court decides the issue. The Government already has a cert petition pending with the Supreme Court  based on defendant wins in the Ninth Circuit and two other circuits. This Second Circuit case clearly creates a split that the Supreme Court will most likely take on.…


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Categories: 924(c), crime of violence, Hobbs Act, Johnson

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Friday, July 29th, 2016

Petition to file a Second or Successive 2255 petition is granted by the Circuit –in a Career Offender case based on Johnson and the cert. grant in Beckles — and the district court has discretion to proceed without waiting for the Beckles decision.

Today the Circuit amended its decision in Blow v. United States, No. 16-1530 (Katzmann, chief judge; Wesley and Hall, circuit judges). It added a single line at the end of the opinion to say that the district judge has discretion to proceed on Blow’s  2255 petition and  is not required to hold the petition in abeyance until the Supreme Court decides  Beckles v. United States, No. 15-8544, 2016 WL 1029080 (U.S. June 27, 2016).

The Circuit’s initial opinion was filed about two weeks ago, on July 14, 2016. It granted Blow’s motion to file a Second or Successive 2255 petition. But it  “instructed” the district court to “hold Blow’s §2255 motion in abeyance pending the outcome of Beckles.

In Beckles,  the Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015)  — which declared that the “residual clause” of the …


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