Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

Committing or threatening violence is a “crime of violence.”

For one brief, beautiful moment, it seemed like nothing could ever be a crime of violence. But the pendulum is swinging back and now everything is becoming a crime of violence once again.

In United States v. Nikolla, 17-2206-cr (2d Cir. Feb. 19, 2020), the Second Circuit held that threatening violence in furtherance of an extortion plan, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a), is categorically a “crime of violence” under the force (or elements) clause of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).

In Nikolla, the defendant pled guilty to several charges, including a § 924(c) offense, pursuant to a written plea agreement. On appeal, he nonetheless challenged his § 924(c) conviction. In upholding this conviction, the Circuit found § 1951(a) divisible and noted that the defendant pled guilty to the provision which applies to a defendant who “commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance” of a Hobbs Act extortion or robbery. The Circuit further found that the elements of this offense “mirror almost exactly” the definition of “crime of violence” in the force clause of § 924(c). Accordingly, the Circuit affirmed the defendant’s §924(c) conviction.

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