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Armstead v. United States

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

June 16, 2017

Isaac Benton Armstead, IV, Movant,
v.
United States of America, Respondent.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          MARGARET B. SEYMOUR, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Movant Isaac Benton Armstead, IV, is an inmate in custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He currently is housed at FCI-Oakdale in Oakdale, Louisiana. This matter is before the court on Movant's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, as amended.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On August 6, 2008, Movant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. A presentence investigation report (PSR) was prepared by the United States Probation Office. The PSR noted that Movant has a prior conviction for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature in the court of General Sessions for Orangeburg County, South Carolina. ECF No. 107, ¶ 41. He also has a prior conviction for resisting arrest and distribution of crack in the Court of General Sessions for Orangeburg County, South Carolina. Id. ¶ 42. Movant's criminal history score was 4, for a criminal history category of III. However, Movant was designated as a career offender based upon his prior drug offense and prior crime of violence. Therefore, Movant's criminal history category became VI.

         The PSR provided for a base offense level of 36. Because Movant was designated as a career offender, his offense level under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1 became 37. Movant received no reduction for acceptance of responsibility. Accordingly, Movant's total offense level was 37. On May 27, 2009, Movant was sentenced under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines to 360 months imprisonment. Judgment was entered May 29, 2009. On January 14, 2011, Movant's sentence was reduced pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 35(b) to 262 months incarceration.

         Movant filed a § 2255 motion on October 2, 2014. Respondent moved for summary judgment, which motion was granted by order filed May 19, 2015. Movant filed a successive § 2255 motion on July 27, 2015, seeking the benefit of Johnson v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), wherein the Supreme Court found the “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act to be unconstitutionally vague. Respondent filed a motion for summary judgment on August 24, 2015, asserting (1) Movant's § 2255 motion is successive and untimely; (2) Johnson stated a procedural rule not retroactive on collateral review; and (3) Movant's motion is barred by waiver. On August 24, 2015, the court issued an order pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising Movant of the summary judgment procedures and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately. Movant filed a response in opposition on November 2, 2015.

         On June 24, 2016, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit authorized Movant to file a second or successive application for relief under § 2255, stating that he had made a prima facie showing that Johnson may apply to his case. Counsel filed § 2255 motions on Movant's behalf, arguing that the Court's interpretation of the residual clause applies equally to the residual clause in § 4B1.2(a)(2) of the Guidelines. On November 29, 2016, upon motion of Respondent, the court stayed the matter pending disposition of Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017), a case wherein a defendant challenged his Guidelines sentence under Johnson. The Court decided Beckles on March 6, 2017. Respondent filed a motion to dismiss Movant's § 2255 motion on June 7, 2017. Movant filed a response in opposition on June 14, 2017. The matter now is ripe for adjudication.

         DISCUSSION

         In Johnson the Supreme Court addressed the Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984 (ACCA), which mandates an enhanced sentence for an offender convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm if the offender has three or more convictions for a serious drug offense or violent felony. Under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B), the term “violent felony” means

any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year . . . 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, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.

         In Johnson, the Court determined that the language known as the residual clause-i.e., “or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another”-is unconstitutionally vague.

         Movant received an enhanced sentence not under the ACCA, but under the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which define ...


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