ACCA

The Federal Docket

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.

United States v. Cedrin Carter (11th Cir. August 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit upheld a defendant’s conviction and sentence under the ACCA because his prior convictions in 2009 were separate offenses.

United States v. Michael Vickers (5th Cir. July 2020)

The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court that vacated a defendant’s sentence under the ACCA and Career Offender enhancement, holding that the defendant’s prior state murder conviction under Texas law qualified as a violent felony under the ACCA despite the prior statute not distinguishing between direct and indirect force.

United States v. Najee Oliver (11th Cir. June 2020)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s enhanced sentence under the ACCA, holding that his prior conviction for terroristic threats under Georgia law constituted a prior violent felony. The statute listed several types of offenses constituting terroristic threats and was therefore divisible, and the defendant’s conviction for threatening to commit an act of violence qualified as a predicate violent felony under the ACCA.

Gregory Welch v. United States (11th Cir. May 2020)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act, holding that his prior Florida convictions for strong-arm robbery and felony battery were “violent felonies” under the ACCA’s elements clause.

United States v. Marlon Eason, et al. (11th Cir. March 2020)

Joining several other circuits, the Eleventh Circuit held that a conviction for Hobbs Act robbery does not qualify as a “crime of violence” for the sentencing enhancement under either the elements clause of U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a) or as an enumerated robbery or extortion offense, as a defendant can be convicted of Hobbs Act robbery based merely on a threat to property.

United States v. John Terry Chatman, Jr. (8th Cir. March 2020)

The Court reversed the defendant’s conviction for obstruction of justice by attempting to kill a witness where the evidence showed that the defendant shot at an officer “out of frustration and retaliation” and not with the intent of “preventing a communication about the commission of a federal offense” to other other officers.

Shular v. United States (U.S. Supreme Court, February 2020)

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held a defendant’s prior conviction under state law qualifies as a “serious drug offense” under the ACCA if the defendant’s conduct involves “manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to manufacture or distribute, a controlled substance” as spelled out under the statute. In doing so, the Court rejected a categorical approach that would require courts to match the defendant’s state offenses to a “generic offense.”

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