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United States v. Baldwin

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 30, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CRAIG BALDWIN

         SECTION "B”

          ORDER AND REASONS

         Before the Court is Defendant-movant Craig Baldwin's (“Petitioner”) “Motion to Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Pursuant to Johnson.” Rec. Doc. 128. The Government timely filed a response memorandum. Rec. Doc. 142. Petitioner Baldwin then filed a reply memorandum. Rec. Doc. 143. For the reasons discussed below, IT IS ORDERED that the Motion to Correct Sentence (Rec. Doc. 128) is DENIED.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On August 10, 2000, Craig Baldwin (“Petitioner”) pled guilty to count two of an indictment charging him with possession with intent to distribute cocaine base and cocaine hydrochloride, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. §2. Rec. Doc. 41. On October 25, 2000, Petitioner was sentenced to 262 months imprisonment. Rec. Doc. 41. Petitioner's sentencing took place when the United States Sentencing Guidelines were still mandatory.[1]Petitioner Baldwin was subject to an enhancement under Guidelines §§ 4B1.1 and 4B1.2 because he was considered a career offender. Rec. Doc. 128 at 1. Specifically, the Court determined that Petitioner's instant offense qualified as a “crime of violence” or “controlled substance offense” and that he had at least two qualifying prior convictions to support the enhancement. Id. Petitioner's previous conviction for armed robbery in violation of Louisiana law constituted a “crime of violence”; while his previous conviction for possession with intent to distribute cocaine constituted a “controlled substance offense.” Id. at 3; see also Rec. Doc. 128 at 2.

         On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court held in Johnson v. United States that the “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984 (“ACCA, ” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii)), providing that a “violent felony” includes any crime that “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another, ” was unconstitutionally vague. 135 S.Ct. 2551, 2563 (2015). The rule in Johnson was made retroactive on collateral review by Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016).

         The Federal Sentencing Guidelines (the “Guidelines”) relied upon by the sentencing court in Petitioner's case contain an identical residual clause. The 1995 version, which were in effect when Petitioner was sentenced in 2000, provided that:

A defendant is a career offender if (1) the defendant was at least eighteen years old at the time of the instant offense, (2) the instant offense of conviction is a felony that is either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense, and (3) the defendant has at least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense.

U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1 (emphasis added). In turn, “crime of violence” was defined to include:

[A]ny offense under federal or state law punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year that (i) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another, or (ii) is burglary of a dwelling, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.

U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(1) (emphasis added).

         Accordingly, on June 24, 2016, Petitioner filed the instant motion to correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Rec. Doc. 128. On August 4, 2016, Petitioner's motion was held in abeyance pending the Supreme Court's decision in Beckles v. United States. Rec. Doc. 131. On March 6, 2017, the Supreme Court in Beckles v. U.S. held that the advisory Guidelines are not subject to vagueness challenges.[2] 137 S.Ct. 890 (2017). It reasoned that, “[u]nlike the ACCA . . . the advisory Guidelines do not fix the permissible range of sentences. To the contrary, they merely guide the exercise of a court's discretion in choosing an appropriate sentence within the statutory range.” Id. at 892 (emphasis added). The Court further noted that the advisory guidelines do not implicate the two “concerns underlying the vagueness doctrine-providing notice and preventing arbitrary enforcement.” Id. at 894.[3] In other words, because the Court rendered the Guidelines “effectively advisory” in Booker, “the Guidelines are not amenable to a vagueness challenge.” Id. at 894. In her concurring opinion, Justice Sotomayor made the following observation:

The Court's adherence to the formalistic distinction between mandatory and advisory rules at least leaves open the question whether defendants sentenced to terms of imprisonment before our decision in [Booker]-that is, during the period in which the Guidelines did “fix the permissible range of sentences, ” ante, at 892-may mount vagueness attacks on their sentences. That question is not presented by this case and I, like the majority, take no position on its appropriate resolution.

Id. at 903 n.4 (emphasis added).

         Petitioner was given until May 15, 2017 to file supplemental briefing regarding Beckles. Rec. Doc. 136. A memorandum was timely filed (Rec. Doc. 137); the Government filed a response memorandum on June 14, 2017 (Rec. Doc. 142) and Petitioner filed a reply memorandum on July 14, 2017 (Rec. Doc. 143).

         PARTIES' CONTENTIONS

         Petitioner argues that after Johnson he is “no longer a career offender because his prior conviction for the crime of armed robbery no longer qualifies as a ‘crime of violence' under any definition of a crime of violence as set forth in U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a).” Rec. Doc. 128 at 5.

         The Government responds that “[n]either the Supreme Court nor the Fifth Circuit has decided whether Johnson applies to sentences that were enhanced under the residual clause in § 4B1.2 when the Guidelines were mandatory, ” and therefore, ...


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