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United States v. Washington

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

December 22, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
TIMOTHY L. WASHINGTON

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON CHIEF JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Motion to Vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 65) and the Amended Motion to Vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 72) by Petitioner Timothy Washington. Also before the Court is the Motion to Expand the Record (Doc. 80) by the United States.[1] Petitioner requests that the Court vacate his sentence in light of Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). In Johnson, the Supreme Court held that the Armed Career Criminal Act's ("ACCA") residual clause is unconstitutionally vague. For the following reasons, the Motion to Vacate (Doc. 65) is DENIED AS MOOT, and the Amended Motion to Vacate (Doc. 72) and the Motion to Expand the Record (Doc. 80) are GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On December 10, 2008 Petitioner pled guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) before the Honorable Frank J. Polozola. (Docs. 16). On November 18, 2009, the Court sentenced Petitioner to a fifteen year term of imprisonment. (Doc. 44). At the sentencing hearing, the Court adopted the factual findings in the presentence report. (Doc. 49 at 3:12-15). At sentencing, the Court explained that based on Petitioner's "prior record" the Court was required to sentence Petitioner to a fifteen year mandatory minimum as an armed career criminal under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). (Doc. 49 at 4:4-8, 6:6-10). Petitioner appealed, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed. (Doc. 63).

         On November 20, 2015, Petitioner proceeding pro se filed a Motion to Vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Doc. 65). Petitioner argues that he did not voluntarily plead guilty because his attorney did not properly inform him about the "ACCA enhancement requirements" and that he is actually innocent of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon because he is not a "state recidivist offender under state law." (Doc. 65-1 at p. 3). On May 31, 2016, Petitioner filed a supplemental memorandum in support of his Motion to Vacate, arguing that he is entitled to relief in light of Johnson. (Doc. 71). On July 22, 2016, Petitioner now represented by the Office of the Federal Public Defender filed an Amended Motion to Vacate under § 2255. (Doc. 72). The Office of the Federal Defender argues that Petitioner is not an armed career criminal as defined in Johnson. Id. On October 6, 2017, the Government filed a Motion to Expand the Record, (Doc. 80), and an opposition to Petitioner's motions to vacate. (Doc. 81). The Court ordered the Petitioner to file supplemental briefing, (Doc. 83), and the Petitioner did so. (Doc. 85).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Section 2255 provides that a federal prisoner serving a court-imposed sentence may move the court to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Only a narrow set of claims are cognizable on a Section 2255 motion. The statute identifies four grounds on which a motion may be made: (1) the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) the court was without jurisdiction to impose the sentence; (3) the sentence exceeds the statutory maximum sentence; or (4) the sentence is "otherwise subject to collateral attack." Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The ACCA prohibits convicted felons from possessing firearms. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). This crime ordinarily carries a maximum sentence often years. Id. §924(a)(2). But if the defendant has three previous convictions for a "violent felony or a serious drug offense" then the ACCA elevates the statutory sentencing range to a minimum of fifteen years and a maximum of life. Id. § 924(e)(1).

         The ACCA defines "violent felony" in three ways:

• The elements clause defines a violent felony as a crime that "has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another." Id. § 924(e)(2)(B)(i).
• The enumerated clause provides that a violent felony includes "burglary, arson, or extortion, [or a crime that] involves use of explosives! 1" Id. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii).
• The residual clause defines a violent felony as a crime that "otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical ...

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