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United States v. Young

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 21, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
RECHARD YOUNG

         SECTION “L”

          ORDER & REASONS

         Currently pending before the Court is Defendant Rechard Young's Motion to Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, pursuant to Johnson v. United States. R. Doc. 36. The United States has filed a response. R. Doc. 44. The Court has reviewed the briefs, the record, and the relevant law, and now issues this Order and Reasons.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This criminal case arises from an incident on December 14, 2007, in which Defendant Rechard Young was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm by a felon with multiple convictions in violation of Title 18 United States Code § 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). A decade earlier, Young was convicted of aggravated assault with a firearm in violation of Louisiana Revised Statues 14:37.2, and three counts of distribution of cocaine in violation of Louisiana Revised Statutes 40:967(A). The three drug charges were brought after an undercover police officer purchased crack cocaine from Defendant on October 31st, 1996 at 1:35 p.m., November 1st, 1996 at 2:18 p.m., and then, 27 minutes later, at 2:45 p.m. In August 2008, Young pled guilty without a plea agreement to a superseding bill of information in which the Government noted that Defendant “is subject to an enhanced sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e).” Adopting the recommendations of the Presentence Report and finding that Young was a career criminal, this Court sentenced Defendant to an enhanced sentence of 180 months imprisonment.[1] Mr. Young did not file a direct appeal or any other motions until filing the current § 2255 motion on June 21, 2016.

         II. PRESENT MOTION

         Pending before the Court is Young's § 2255 motion in which he urges the court to correct his enhanced sentence pursuant to the Supreme Court's 2015 decision in Johnson. R. Doc. 36. Filed within one year of Johnson, his motion appears timely. R. Doc. 36 at 2. Young argues that in light of Johnson, which deemed the Armed Career Criminal Act's residual clause unconstitutional, his prior conviction for aggravated assault does not qualify as a violent crime under Louisiana law. R. Doc. 36 at 3-4. Thus, Young contends that he no longer merits the designation of armed career criminal and therefore the enhancement to his sentence is unwarranted and should be corrected. R. Doc. 36 at 3-4.

         The Government has filed an opposition, arguing that even in light of Johnson, Defendant's conviction for aggravated assault qualifies as a violent crime under the force clause of the Armed Criminal Career Act because violating the Louisiana Revised Statute 14:37.2 involves the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against another person. R. Doc. 44 at 6-7. The Government further contends that even if aggravated assault with a firearm does not qualify as a violent felony, Young's designation as an armed career criminal is appropriate because his prior convictions for serious drug offenses occurred on three distinct occasions. R. Doc. 44 at 5.

         III. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A. Relief Under § 2255

         Habeas relief is appropriate under § 2255 where a federal prisoner asserts that his sentence “was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Upon a finding that any of the four grounds for relief exist, the court “shall vacate and set the judgment aside and shall discharge the prisoner or resentence him or grant a new trial or correct the sentence as may appear appropriate.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).

         B. Sentencing Enhancements Pursuant to the Armed Criminal Career Act in Light of Johnson.

         The Armed Criminal Career Act imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of fifteen years of imprisonment for defendants convicted of being felons in possession of a firearm if they have previously been convicted of at least three violent felonies or serious drug offenses. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). Without the sentencing enhancement, a felon-in-possession may be sentenced to a maximum penalty of 10 years. 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2). The ACCA defines a violent felony as a crime punishable by a minimum of one year that-

i) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another [the force clause]; or
ii) is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives [the enumerated clause], or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another [the ...

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