Archive | career offender

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

SDNY: Judge Castel Rules That 21 U.S.C. 846 Is Not A “Controlled Substance Offense” Under The Guidelines

Monday, in United States v. Sprull, 18 Cr. 665, Judge Castel ruled that a prior conviction under 21 U.S.C. 846 is not a controlled substance offense under U.S.S.G. 4B1.2(b). Judge Castel agreed with Judge Oetken’s analysis in United States v. Wilson, 18 Cr. 12, and ruled that under the categorical approach, 846 has no overt act requirement, whereas the generic offense of “conspiring” under Application Note 1 to 4B1.2(b) does. As a result, 846 is a categorical mismatch for the Guidelines predicate. We have requested the transcript and will circulate it. We also have briefing on this issue for anyone who’s interested.

The question is currently pending before the Second Circuit in United States v. Tabb, No. 18-338 (briefing complete; oral argument not scheduled yet).…

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Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

Supreme Court Decides Stitt

Last week, the Supreme Court held in United States v.  Stitt, Nos. 17-765 & 17-766, that the Armed Career Criminal Act’s (ACCA’s) definition of “violent felony” covers burglary statutes that criminalize unlawful entry into vehicles adapted or customarily used for overnight accommodation. As explained below, the decision does not appear to have any bearing on whether the ACCA covers New York’s third-degree burglary statute, N.Y. Penal Code § 140.20.

The enumerated clause of the ACCA identifies “burglary” as a violent felony. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1)(ii). In Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575 (1990), the Supreme Court adopted the categorical approach to analyzing the ACCA and, in doing so, held that Congress “intended a uniform definition of burglary [to] be applied” to cases involving that predicate offense. Id. at  580. This uniform definition of burglary, the Court held in Taylor, covers unlawful entry into “a building or other …


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

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Friday, June 15th, 2018

(Non-)Waiver and the Generic Definition of Manslaughter

Last week the Second Circuit issued an opinion holding that, under the residual clause of the pre-2016 Career Offender Guideline (COG), U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2), offenses under a subsection of New York’s first-degree manslaughter statute are crimes of violence. In so holding, the Circuit defined the generic definition of manslaughter to include “the unlawful killing of another human being recklessly.” United States v. Castillo, No. 16-4129 (2d Cir. 2018) (Cabranes, Raggi, Vilardo (WDNY)) (appeal from Woods, J., SDNY), slip op. at 24. The Court further held, in conclusory fashion, that the government did not waive this argument when it conceded, pre-Beckles, that the residual clause of the pre-2016 COG was unconstitutionally vague. The opinion in Castillo, available here, may be of interest to practitioners dealing with the pre-2016 Guidelines, and is more generally worth noting for its loose language  concerning appellate waiver — language that …


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Categories: career offender, categorical approach, manslaughter, waiver

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Friday, June 8th, 2018

Seventh Circuit Holds that Beckles Does Not Apply to Pre-Booker Sentences

More news out of the Midwest:  In United States v. Cross, the Seventh Circuit held that Beckles v. United States applies only to post-Booker cases in which the Sentencing Guidelines were advisory.  In pre-Booker cases in which the Guidelines were mandatory, the residual clause of the career-offender guideline is unconstitutionally vague under Johnson v. United States.…


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Categories: career offender, Johnson

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Thursday, March 8th, 2018

Second-Degree NY Robbery Is A Crime of Violence Under the Pre-2016 Career Offender Residual Clause

Today, in a short opinion, the Second Circuit confirmed that second-degree robbery in New York is categorically a crime of violence under the residual clause of the pre-2016 Career Offender Guideline (COG). See U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2 (2015). The opinion in United States v. Smith, No. 15-3313 (2d Cir. 2018) (Winter, Cabranes, Restani) (appeal from Failla, J., SDNY), is available here.* (A separate panel reached the same conclusion, with less analysis, earlier this week in United States v. Dove.)

Its decision, the Smith panel held, was compelled by Jones II, where the Second Circuit held that under Beckles first-degree robbery is a crime of violence under the pre-2016 COG’s residual clause. See Smith, slip op. at 9-10 (“The rationale of Jones is directly applicable to this case. In New York law, the first element of second-degree robbery is the same as the first element of …


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Categories: career offender, categorical approach, crime of violence, Johnson, robbery, sentencing

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Friday, January 26th, 2018

Categorical Approach Updates from First and Ninth Circuits (Including on 2nd-Degree NY Robbery’s Status under the Career Offender Guideline)

Two valuable opinions have been published outside the Second Circuit in recent weeks:

(1) The First Circuit has  held that attempted second-degree robbery in New York is not a “crime of violence” for purposes of the Career Offender Guideline’s force clause, U.S.S.G. § 4B1.(2)(a)(1). The opinion in United States v. Steed, No. 17-1011 (1st Cir. 2018) (Barron, J.) is available here. The court’s reasoning in Steed should be familiar to those following the district court and (vacated) Second Circuit opinions reaching the same conclusion.

As its starting point, the court looked to First Circuit case law holding that purse snatching does not necessarily require the degree of force required under Johnson I. The court then considered whether, as of 2000 (the year of the defendant’s relevant conviction), such purse snatching was a violation of New York’s second degree robbery statute, NY Penal Law  § 160.10. After …


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Categories: career offender, categorical approach, conspiracy, crime of violence, drug distribution, Johnson

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Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Circuits Rule that Hobbs Act and 924(c) Convictions Are Not Predicates Under the ACCA and COG.

This month two circuits held, respectively, that offenses cannot serve as predicates under the Career Offender Guideline or the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) because they can involve force against property as well as against persons.

The Tenth Circuit held that robbery under the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1951, is not a crime of violence under the Career Offender Guideline (COG), U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2. See United States v. O’Connor. The enumerated clause of the COG identifies “robbery” as a crime of violence. The Tenth Circuit held that the elements of this generic offense include the use or threatened use of force against a person, but not against property. Hobbs Act robbery, by contrast, can involve “actual or threatened force, or violence, or fear of injury, immediate or future, to . . . [a] person or property.” 18 U.S.C. § 1951(b)(1) (emphasis added). The COG’s definition of robbery …


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Categories: 924(c), career offender, categorical approach, crime of violence, Johnson, robbery, sentencing

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Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

New Circuit Opinion on Old Career Offender Residual Clause

Yesterday the Circuit re-decided United States v. Jones. The panel held that in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in United States v. Beckles, armed New York first-degree robbery is categorically a crime of violence under the residual clause of the pre-2016 Career Offender Guideline. See U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2 (2015). (The Guidelines have since been amended to remove the residual clause.) The opinion is available here.

In a concurring opinion, two of the panel’s three judges confirmed that New York robbery is not a violent felony under ACCA’s elements clause. Specifically, the concurrence observed that the Circuit’s decision in United States v. Spencer, 955 F.2d 814, 820 (2d Cir. 1992), which had held that New York attempted third-degree robbery was a crime of violence under the Career Offender Guideline’s elements clause, had been “abrogated” by Johnson v. United States, 559 U.S. 133 (2010) (“2010 Johnson


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Categories: career offender, categorical approach, crime of violence, Johnson, robbery, sentencing

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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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Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Sooner or Later, the Career Offender Guideline Will Get You

In United States v. Anthony Lewis, Docket Nos. 15-3245-cr (L) & 15-3307-cr (CON), an unpublished summary order, the Court (Calabresi, Livingston & Rakoff (by designation)) rejected two appeals by Mr. Lewis from two denials of two § 3582(c)(2) motions for a reduced sentence based on two retroactively applicable Guideline amendments, one in 2010 and the other in 2014. The case is of interest principally for demonstrating the see-saw application of the Career Offender Guideline vis-a-via the Drug Guideline (§ 2D1.1) in the context of § 3582(c)(2) motions.

Mr. Lewis was originally sentenced in 2004. Under the drug table in § 2D1.1, his total offense level (based on distributing 1.5 KG or more of cocaine base) was 37, and at Criminal History Category VI, the range was 360 months to life. He also qualified as a Career Offender under § 4B1.1, but that determination resulted in a total offense …


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Categories: 3582(c)(2), career offender

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Manslaughter is Not a “Crime of Violence”

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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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