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Hampton v. United States

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division

September 8, 2016

Michael J. Hampton, Defendant-Petitioner
v.
United States of America, Plaintiff-Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Cameron McGowan Currie Senior United States District Judge

         Defendant, through his attorney, seeks relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. ECF No. 225. The Government filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment, as well as a memorandum in support. ECF No. 227. On June 27, 2016, Defendant filed a reply memorandum. ECF No. 229. The Government filed a response in support of its motion for summary judgment on June 30, 2016. ECF No. 230. Defendant filed a reply to that response on July 5, 2016. ECF No. 231.

         I. Background

         On December 18, 2007, Defendant was indicted for felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2), and 924(e). ECF No. 1. On September 19, 2008, the Government filed an Information notifying Defendant that he had four prior convictions that subjected him to enhanced penalties under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). ECF No. 65. Defendant went to trial and was found guilty of felon in possession. ECF No. 99.

         A Pre-Sentence Report (PSR) concluded Defendant was an armed career criminal under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) and faced a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of fifteen (15) years and a maximum term of life imprisonment. The PSR found that Defendant's prior convictions for Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine (1999), failure to stop for police vehicle, assault on a police officer, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature (“ABHAN”), and Distribution of Cocaine (2003) qualified as predicate convictions for ACCA purposes. See ECF No. 119, PSR ¶¶ 19, 20, 22, 23.

         Defense counsel objected to the possession with intent to distribute being considered as a predicate for ACCA because the requirement of a ten year sentence for a serious drug offense was not applicable. ECF No. 115-1. Counsel also objected to the conviction for failure to stop for a police vehicle serving as a predicate for the ACCA. Id. In addition, Defendant filed pro se objections to each of his identified previous convictions counting as predicates for the ACCA. ECF Nos. 113, 114. The Probation Officer noted that, under current law, the convictions remained predicate offenses for ACCA purposes. ECF No. 115-1.

         On May 12, 2009, Defendant appeared for sentencing. The court overruled Defendant's objections to the PSR, but varied from the guideline range of 324-405 after defendant “argued the 4 level enhancement pursuant to § 2K2.1 (b)(6) in paragraph 40 and the 6 level enhancement pursuant to § 3A1.2 in paragraph 42 were unduly harsh in this case as both enhancements arose out of the same conduct.” ECF No. 121. Defendant was sentenced to 300 months' imprisonment and five years' supervised release. Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence, arguing that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress, and that the court erred in calculating his guideline range because of impermissible double counting. Defendant's conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Fourth Circuit on December 16, 2010. ECF No. 186.

         Defendant filed a §2255 motion on March 5, 2012, arguing that his counsel was ineffective (at trial and on appeal) and that he was actually innocent of being an armed career criminal, as none of his prior convictions should have qualified as ACCA predicates. ECF No. 190. The court determined that, even if one of Defendant's convictions (failure to stop for a blue light (“FTSBL”)) could no longer qualify as a “violent felony” after United States v. Rivers, 595 F.3d 558 (4th Cir. 2010), and another (ABHAN) was questionable, Defendant had sufficient other predicate convictions to qualify as an Armed Career Criminal. ECF No. 208. The court granted the Government's motion for summary judgment and dismissed Defendant's § 2255 motion with prejudice. Id.

         Defendant filed a pro se motion for relief from judgment, requesting reconsideration of his § 2255 motion. ECF No. 211. The court denied this motion on September 13, 2012. ECF No. 212.

         On November 13, 2012, Defendant filed a notice of appeal on his § 2255 motion and a motion for certificate of appealability. ECF Nos. 214, 215. The Fourth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability and dismissed the appeal, finding that Defendant did not make the requisite showing for a certificate of appealability. ECF No. 222.

         Prior to filing the instant motion, Defendant filed a § 2244 motion with the Fourth Circuit. No. 16-664. On May 31, 2016, he received permission to file a second or successive motion under § 2255. ECF No. 224. The instant motion under § 2255 was filed the same day. ECF No. 225.

         II. The ACCA

         A conviction for felon in possession typically carries a statutory maximum sentence of ten years in prison. See 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2). However, if the accused has three or more previous convictions for certain types of felonies, he is subject to an enhanced minimum sentence of fifteen years imprisonment with a maximum term of life imprisonment. Title 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1) provides:

In the case of a person who violates section 922(g) of this title and has three previous convictions by any court referred to in section 922(g)(1) of this title for a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both, committed on occasions different from one another, such person shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not less than fifteen years . . . .

         As is relevant to this case, the statute defines “violent felony” as

any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, or any act of juvenile delinquency involving the use or carrying of a firearm, knife, or destructive device that would be punishable by imprisonment for such term if committed by an adult, 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, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, ...

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