United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY United States District Judge
prisoner Patrick Jermaine Roberts moves to vacate, set aside,
or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF Nos.
104 & 111). The United States (“Government”)
has filed a motion to dismiss (ECF No. 109). For the reasons
stated herein, the Court denies the Government's motion
and grants Roberts' § 2255 motion.
2004, Roberts pled guilty to possessing marijuana with intent
to distribute and for possessing a firearm as a convicted
felon. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1); 21 U.S.C.
§ 841. Roberts' criminal history included
convictions in South Carolina state court for distribution of
crack cocaine, possession with intent to distribute
marijuana, discharging a firearm into a dwelling, and
robbery. That criminal history triggered the Armed
Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), which raises the
prison sentence for certain felon-in-possession defendants
from a maximum of ten years to a minimum of fifteen.
See 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2), (e)(1). The Court
therefore sentenced Roberts to 212 months in prison for felon
in possession and 60 concurrent months on the drug charge.
Roberts appealed his conviction and the ACCA enhancement in
his sentence. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. United States
v. Roberts, 166 F. App'x 80 (4th Cir. 2006) (per
filed his § 2255 motion in June 2016, contending that
after Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551
(2015), his ACCA-enhanced sentence is unconstitutional and
therefore he must be resentenced. The Government responded in
August by filing a motion to dismiss in which it argued that
Johnson did not affect Roberts' sentence.
initial review of the parties' submissions, the Court
determined that the result of United States v.
Doctor, a then-pending appeal in the Fourth Circuit, had
the potential to affect the outcome in Roberts' §
2255 motion. Accordingly, the Court stayed proceedings until
the Fourth Circuit issued a decision in Doctor. As
the Fourth Circuit has since issued that decision,
see 842 F.3d 306 (4th Cir. 2016), this matter is
ripe for consideration.
proceeds under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which provides, in
A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established
by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the
ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the
Constitution or laws of the United States, . . . or that the
sentence was in excess of the maximum allowed by law, . . .
may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set
aside or correct the sentence.
28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). On a motion to vacate, set aside,
or correct a sentence under § 2255, the petitioner bears
the burden of proving the grounds for collateral attack by a
preponderance of the evidence. Miller v. United
States, 261 F.2d 546, 547 (4th Cir. 1958).
the ACCA, a defendant convicted of felon in possession must
be sentenced to at least fifteen years in prison if he has at
least “three previous convictions . . . for a violent
felony or a serious drug offense, or both, committed on
occasions different from one another.” 18 U.S.C. §
924(e)(1). Roberts argues that under Johnson, he no
longer has three previous convictions that can count as
either violent felonies or serious drug offenses.
ACCA's definition of “violent felony”
includes any crime, punishable by more than a year in prison,
i. has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened
use of physical force against the ...