Archive | Johnson

Wednesday, September 8th, 2021

Convictions for “actual and attempted Hobbs Act robbery” are crimes of violence under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). And the imposition of 6 consecutive mandatory minimum prison sentences, totaling 115 years’ (based on the “stacking” of five § 924(c) convictions, running consecutively to a 10-year minimum drug sentence), doesn’t violate the Eighth Amendment. United States v.  Waite, No. 18-2651, __F.4th__, 2021 WL 3870712 (2d Cir. Aug. 31, 2021) (C.J.J. Cabranes, Raggi, Sullivan).

Waite was originally sentenced in 2011, principally to 125 years’ imprisonment based on five 924(c) counts and a drug conspiracy count. The Circuit vacated his original sentence (in 2016) because of an issue with the drug sentence. At the resentencing in March 2018, the district court subtracted 10 years from the original (20-year) drug sentence, making the new sentence 115 years, which was “the then-applicable mandatory minimum sentence for Waite’s counts of conviction”; his five § 924(c) sentences had to be “stacked” — i.e., made consecutive to each other for a total of 105 years — and the stacked 924(c) sentences had to be consecutive to the 10-year drug sentence. A few months after the resentencing, however, the First Step Act of 2018 (“FSA”) eliminated the “stacking” requirement for § 924(c) sentences.

On this appeal, Waite argued that: (1) four of his (five) § 924(c) convictions are invalid under …

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Categories: 924(c), Davis, Eighth Amendment, Johnson

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Monday, July 12th, 2021

The Second Circuit holds that the concurrent sentence doctrine applies when a defendant collaterally challenges the legality of a conviction, under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, and declines to review the § 2255 appeal. Kassir v. United States, No. 19-1477, __F.3d__ (2d Cir. July 9, 2021) (C.J.J. Jacobs, Nardini).

The Circuit applies the “discretionary” concurrent sentence doctrine because the petitioner’s 2255 motion attacked only a single count of conviction, that resulted in a 20-year sentence that is concurrent to “two terms of life in prison” on counts unchallenged. The Circuit said it was exercising its discretion “to decline” to review Mr.  Kassir’s 2255 appeal (challenging the validity of a conviction) because “[e]ven  if  his challenge were successful, our decision would  not shorten the time Kassir must remain in custody because he remains subject to two concurrent life sentences[.]” Op. at 2-3.

The Circuit holds, however, that  if, in the future, the petitioner is able to challenge his two life sentences, he may renew his 2255 challenge to the concurrent 20-year sentence. Op at 25-27.

I. The Circuit avoids deciding (i) whether Dimaya and Davis established a new rule of constitutional law, retroactive to cases on collateral review; or


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Categories: 2255, concurrent sentence doctrine, Davis, Dimaya, habeas corpus, harmless error, Johnson

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Thursday, March 4th, 2021

En Banc Second Circuit: New York First-Degree Manslaughter Is An ACCA/Guidelines Crime Of Violence.

In United States v. Scott, the en banc Second Circuit held that New York first-degree manslaughter, in violation of N.Y. Penal Law § 125.20(1) (applicable to one who “with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, … causes the death of such person or of a third person”), is a categorical crime of violence under the force clauses of ACCA, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(i), and the career-offender Guideline, U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(1).

Scott was sentenced pursuant to ACCA and the career-offender Guideline based, in part, on two prior New York first-degree manslaughter convictions. Following Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S. 591 (2015), the district court (Swain, SDNY) granted Scott’s 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion and resentenced him. The district court concluded that New York first-degree manslaughter does not categorically involve the “use” of violent physical force, as required by §§ 924(e)(2)(B)(i) and 4B1.2(a)(1), because under New York …

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Categories: ACCA, career offender, Johnson

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Categories: ACCA, career offender, Johnson

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Tuesday, October 6th, 2020

Keep Fighting Those Mandatory Guideline Sentences

Do you have a client who was deemed a career offender pursuant to the residual clause of the mandatory (pre-Booker) Career Offender Guideline?  If so, keep fighting that sentence!  There are at least a couple ways:

1) If the client has a petition pending under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, make sure to argue the sentence is unconstitutional given Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S. 591 (2015).  That argument is currently foreclosed by Nunez v. United States, 954 F.3d 465 (2d Cir. 2020), but there’s a circuit split on the issue that just deepened: the First Circuit has joined the Seventh in holding Johnson effectively invalidated the residual clause of the mandatory Guideline.  See Shea v. United States, ___ F.3d ___, 2020 WL 5755462 (1st Cir. Sept. 28, 2020).  The Supreme Court refused to resolve this split when the Seventh Circuit was the sole outlier, but …


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Categories: 3582(c)(1)(A), Johnson, mandatory guidelines

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Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

Second Circuit restates its holding that Connecticut’s simple robbery statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-133, qualifies as a violent felony under ACCA’s force clause. Estremera v. United States, No. 17-831-pr, __ F. 3d__, 2019 WL 6690775 (Dec. 9, 2019).

In Shabazz v. United States, 912 F.3d 73 (2d Cir. 2019), the Circuit held that Connecticut’s simple robbery statute, Connecticut General Statute § 53a-133, qualifies as a violent felony under the force clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1) (“ACCA”). Id. at 78.

Here, the Circuit holds that Shabazz “resolves” Petitioner Nelson Estremera’s claims that his Connecticut convictions for first-degree robbery and attempted robbery, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 53a-134(a)(3) and 53a-49, and for second-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 53a-135(a)(1) and 53a-48 do not qualify as ACCA predicates. Estremera, 2019 WL 6690775 at * 2.  [17-831_Documents.]

All Connecticut first-degree robbery offenses — the Circuit holds — are qualifying ACCA predicates. It states that although Connecticut’s first-degree robbery statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-134(a), enumerates different ways of committing first-degree robbery, “every …

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Categories: ACCA, Johnson, violent felony

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Friday, October 4th, 2019

Second Circuit Panel holds residual clause definition of “crime of violence” in the Bail Reform Act is not void for vagueness

In today’s United States v. Watkins, No. 18-3076, a panel of the Second Circuit held the residual clause definition of “crime of violence” in the Bail Reform Act is not void for vagueness.

This may surprise some observers, as the Bail Reform Act’s residual clause is identical to – and subject to the same categorical approach as – the residual clauses the Supreme Court struck down for vagueness in Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S. Ct. 1204 (2018), and United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019).

Moreover, the Second Circuit’s ruling is plainly moot: after being denied bail, Mr. Watkins pleaded guilty and was sentenced to prison.  See United States v. Watkins, W.D.N.Y. No. 18-cr-131.  Only now, months later, has the panel weighed in on whether the residual clause of the “crime of violence” definition in the Bail Reform Act is void for vagueness.  But …


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Categories: crime of violence, Davis, Johnson, Uncategorized

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Friday, August 30th, 2019

FINAL DECISION by the Second Circuit in BARRETT

Because the residual clause of 18 U.S.C.§  924(c)(3)(B)  is unconstitutionally vague, “conspiracy” to commit Hobbs Act robbery isn’t a qualifying 924(c) predicate, since Hobbs Act conspiracy doesn’t meet the elements clause of § 924(c)(c)(3)(A). United States v. Barrett, No. 14-2641-cr, __F.3d__, 2019 WL 4121728  (Aug. 30, 2019). 

The Supreme Court vacated the Second Circuit’s original judgment that affirmed Barrett’s conviction (see 903 F.3d 166). And it remanded the case to the Circuit for further consideration in light of United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (June 24, 2019). See  Barrett v. United States, 139 S.Ct. 2774 (June 28, 2019) (“petition for writ of certiorari granted. Judgment vacated, and case remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit for further consideration in light of United States v. Davis[.]”).

In United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019), the Supreme …


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

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Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

Second Circuit Upholds ACCA Sentence

In United States v. Evans, the Second Circuit upheld a sentence imposed pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(2)(B), the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”). As the Court described it, the case presented “the latest entry in a series of cases defining offenses that qualify as ‘violent felonies'” for the purposes of ACCA’s sentencing enhancement. The Court held that North Carolina second-degree burglary qualifies as a violent felony under ACCA’s “enumerated clause” and that federal bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2113(a) qualifies as a violent felony under ACCA’s “elements clause.” You can read the Evans opinion here. …


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Categories: ACCA, crime of violence, Johnson

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Thursday, April 11th, 2019

Credit Union Robbery is a Crime of Violence for the Purposes of 18 U.S.C. 924(c)

Today, in United States v. Hendricks, the Second Circuit held that robbery of a credit union, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2113(a), is a “crime of violence” for the purposes of 18 U.S.C. 924(c). The Circuit said it had “little difficulty in holding that bank robbery committed ‘by intimidation’ categorically constitutes a crime of violence for the purposes of [Section] 924(c)(1)(A).” Opinion at 15.

Stay tuned for a more detailed discussion of Henricks.…


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

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Friday, January 25th, 2019

The 924(c)(3)(B) Circuit Split Grows (in a Good Way)

This week, the Fourth Circuit held in United States v. Simms, No. 15-4640 (4th Cir. 2019) (en banc) that § 924(c)(3)’s residual clause is unconstitutionally vague and therefore that conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery is not a crime of violence. The decision deepens the Circuit split on this issue, which the Supreme Court will soon address in Davis.

Notably, the en banc majority in Simms declined to apply the constitutional avoidance canon to adopt a conduct-specific reading of § 924(c)(3)(B). The avoidance canon has “no application,” the Court stated, where “there is an absence of more than one plausible construction” of the statute. Slip op. at 41 (quotation marks omitted). As the Court explained elsewhere, the government’s favored reading of § 924(c)(3)(B) is implausible because its text and structure “unambiguously require courts to analyze the attributes of an ‘offense that is a felony . . . by …


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

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Friday, January 11th, 2019

Cert. Grant in Davis

The Supreme Court recently granted a certiorari petition in Davis v. United States that presents the following questions:

(1) Whether 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B) is unconstitutionally vague;

(2) whether Hobbs Act robbery is a “crime of violence” as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3); and

(3) whether a prior Texas conviction for burglary is a “violent felony” under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e).

Practitioners should take care to preserve challenges to § 924(c)(3)’s residual clause notwithstanding the Second Circuit’s holding in Barrett, and to preserve arguments that offenses such as Hobbs Act robbery (and conspiracy to commit that offense) are not crimes of violence under  § 924(c)(3). (Note that, as of the date of this post, the mandate has not issued in Barrett.)…


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Categories: 924(c), ACCA, categorical approach, certiorari, conspiracy, crime of violence, Hobbs Act, Johnson

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