ACCA

The Federal Docket

United States v. Antonio Simmons (4th Cir. August 2021)

The Fourth Circuit reversed convictions for several defendants convicted of RICO, VICAR, and carrying a firearm during crimes of violence. In a complex opinion, the Court held that RICO conspiracy is a divisible offense requiring the modified categorical approach to determine if the offense is a crime of violence. The Court concluded that a RICO conspiracy, even an “aggravated” one, is not a crime of violence under 924(c). The Court also reversed the defendants’ VICAR convictions where the jury instructions referred to the wrong state law. Finally, the Court reversed one of the VICAR and 924(c) counts predicated on attempted murder where the defendants only took a preparatory act, not an overt act, in driving around looking for the victim.

United States v. Joshua Dudley (11th Cir. July 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s ACCA-enhanced sentence for possession of a firearm as a convicted felon. The defendant had previously pleaded guilty to several different felony offenses on the same day, but there was no indication in the indictment when these offenses occurred or whether they were related, save for the State’s statements during the colloquy regarding a factual basis. The Eleventh Circuit held that the sentencing court here properly relied on those statements because the defendant had implicitly confirmed the substance of those statements by failing to object or add facts.

United States v. Roosevelt Coats, III (11th Cir. August 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s ACCA-enhanced sentence for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The Court held that it was plain error for the district court to accept the defendant’s guilty plea where the defendant was not advised that the Government would have to prove his knowledge of his felon status, but the defendant was not prejudiced where the record showed the Government would have been able to prove his knowledge at trial. The Court also held that a prior conviction for burglary under Georgia law is a predicate “violent felony” under the ACCA, and it held that the district court properly applied the obstruction enhancement and denied the defendant acceptance of responsibility credit based on the defendant’s pre-indictment conduct.

United States v. Leon Carter (11th Cir. August 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit vacated a defendant’s 15-year sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act. The Court held that the defendant’s prior conviction for aggravated assault under Georgia law was not a conviction for a “violent felony” under the ACCA’s elements clause because it only requires a mens rea of recklessness.

United States v. Jerome Stancil (11th Cir. July 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction and sentence under the ACCA. The Court held that his prior convictions under a Virginia law that criminalized the mere “sharing” or “giving away” of drugs were predicate prior convictions under the ACCA. The Court also rejected the defendant’s argument that the magistrate judge improperly credited the officers’ testimony at his suppression hearing where the alleged inconsistencies in their testimony were not material.

Borden v. United States (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2021)

In a 5-4 opinion, the Supreme Court held that prior convictions for offenses that only require a mens rea of “recklessness” cannot serve as predicate convictions under the “elements clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act. The Court reasoned that the language requiring that an offense involved the use of force “against the person of another,” reflected that the perpetrator must act purposefully and intentionally.

United States v. Abdulaziz (1st Cir. June 2021)

The First Circuit vacated a defendant’s sentence which had been enhanced based on a 2014 conviction under state law for distributing marijuana, which the sentencing court held was a “controlled substance offense” under the Guidelines. The First Circuit held that convictions under state laws that do not distinguish between marijuana and hemp, as defined and legalized under federal law, cannot serve as “controlled substance offenses” under the Guidelines.

Jerome Williams v. United States (11th Cir. January 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of the defendant’s 2255 motion based on Johnson where the defendant argued that the caselaw at the time of his sentencing indicated he was more than likely sentenced under the residual clause of the ACCA. The Court disagreed, holding that the legal landscape was ambiguous and that the defendant failed to meet his burden of proving the sentencing court’s reliance on the residual clause.

United States v. Gerald Scott (2d Cir. March 2021, EN BANC)

Sitting en banc, the Second Circuit held that first degree manslaughter under New York law is categorically a “crime of violence” under the ACCA and the Career Offender provision of the Guidelines. Despite the fact that the offense can be committed through omission or inaction, as opposed to only through act of force or threat of force, the Court concluded it fit the bill under the force clauses of the ACCA because it required a victim’s death and a defendant’s intent to cause at least serious bodily injury.

United States v. James Innocent & Elijah Jones (11th Cir. October 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the convictions and sentences of two defendants for possession of a firearm by convicted felon, holding that neither met their burden of showing that plain error under Rehaif affected their substantial rights. The Court noted that “most people convicted of a felony know that they are felons” and that the defendant had failed to meet his burden despite showing he had a low IQ and had never served more than a year in jail or prison. The Court distinguished the case from pre-Rehaif cases where a defendant had litigated their felon status or maintained that they were allowed to possess a firearm.

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