Section 924(c)

The Federal Docket

United States v. Melaku (4th Cir. July 2022)

The Fourth Circuit reversed the denial of a defendant’s motion under 28 USC 2255 where the defendant challenged his conviction and sentence under 924(c). The Court concluded that the underlying offense for the 924(c) charge, damaging government property under 18 USC 1361, was not a “crime of violence.”

United States v. Taylor (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2022)

In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court held that attempted Hobbs Act robbery does not qualify as a “crime of violence” under 924(c) “because no element of the offense requires proof that the defendant used, attempted to use, or threatened to use force.” Applying the categorical approach, the Court held that a generic defendant could be convicted of attempted Hobbs Act robbery without using or threatening force based simply on their “intent” and their taking a non-forceful “substantial step.”

United States v. Merrell, et al (9th Cir. June 2022)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed petitioner’s new sentences that were imposed after petitioners won a 2255 motion based on the First Step Act’s changes to 18 USC 924(c), a statute which carries a mandatory minimum of five years, consecutive to any other sentence imposed, and previously carried a minimum of 25 years for any subsequent convictions. Congress amended 924(c) so that “subsequent convictions” would not include 924(c) counts in a single indictment, and the Ninth Circuit held that the petitioners could be re-sentenced under the new version of the law since their original sentences had previously been vacated and were thus considered void.

United States v. Perry (5th Cir. May 2022)

The Fifth Circuit reversed a defendant’s conviction for carrying a firearm during a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime under 924(c). The trial court had erroneously instructedhe jury that it could find the defendants guilty of those charges if they used or carried a firearm in relation to either the “crime of violence” charged by their RICO conspiracy count or the drug trafficking crime charged, but RICO is not a “crime of violence” under Fifth Circuit precedent.

United States v. Begay (9th Cir. May 2022), EN BANC

Sitting en banc, the Ninth Circuit held that federal second degree murder (18 USC 1111(a)) is a “crime of violence” under 18 USC 924(c) where, employing the categorical approach, a conviction requires acting “deliberately or recklessly with extreme disregard for human life.” The Ninth Circuit distinguished reckless disregard for human life from mere recklessness but otherwise emphasized that “anything less than intentional conduct does not qualify as a crime of violence.”

United States v. Lance Cannon & Vincent Holton (11th Cir. February 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a pair of Hobbs Act robbery convictions, holding that 1) erroneous jury instructions regarding two predicate offenses under 924(c) were harmless where the offenses were inextricably entwined and one was properly instructed as a predicate offense; 2) defendant’s could not show entrapment or outrageous government conduct when the government set up a fake safe house and had an informant suggest to the defendant that they should rob the safe house; and 3) the defendants were not entitled to discovery for selective prosecution based on a showing that a racial group was disproportionately prosecuted unless they could show evidence of prosecution of similarly situated members of another racial group.

United States v. Michael Henry (6th Cir. December 2020)

The Sixth Circuit held that defendants convicted under 924(c) and involved in resentencing proceedings on remand must be sentenced subject to the First Step Act’s amendments to 924(c).

United States v. Justin Taylor (4th Cir. October 2020)

The Fourth Circuit held that attempted Hobbs Act robbery, like conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, does not constitute a “crime of violence” under 924(c) because under the categorical approach an attempt to commit the offense does not invariably require use of force or threat of force.

United States v. Green, et al (11th Cir. August 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit vacated six defendants’ sentences because their RICO conspiracy convictions did not qualify as violent crimes under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). The Court also held that one of the defendant’s sentences was unreasonable.

United States v. DeAndre Smith (11th Cir. July 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit rejected a number of the defendant’s challenges and affirmed his conviction for Hobbs Act robbery, holding among other things that defendant’s robbery of a store was sufficient to “affect” interstate commerce and that no commercial relationship was required between the victim and defendant. The Court also upheld the defendant’s 7 and 25-year sentences under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), holding that changes to the mandatory minimum did not apply retroactively to cases pending on direct appeal. The Court also held there was no due process violation in the Government’s use of a photo array; no Rule 403 abuse of discretion permitting video evidence; no Eighth Amendment violation when sentences were well below statutory maximums; and sentences were not substantively unreasonable when all relevant facts were considered and weighed.

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