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Schaffner v. United States

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

July 13, 2018

Sean Francis Schaffner, Petitioner,
v.
United States of America, Respondent.

          ORDER

          R. Bryan Harwell, United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Sean Francis Schaffner's pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See ECF No. 82. The Government has filed a motion for summary judgment. See ECF No. 88. The Court denies Petitioner's § 2255 motion and grants the Government's motion for summary judgment for the reasons herein.[1]

         Background

         In 2010, Petitioner was indicted in this District and in the Southern District of Indiana for four armed bank robberies, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and (d), and brandishing firearms during crimes of violence-the bank robberies-in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii). See ECF No. 16 (charging Petitioner with three counts of armed bank robbery and three counts of brandishing firearms during crimes of violence); United States v. Schaffner, No. 4:10-cr-00007-SEB-MGN, at ECF No. 1 (S.D. Ind.) (charging Petitioner with one count of armed bank robbery and one count of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence). The Indiana case was subsequently transferred to this District pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 20. See United States v. Schaffner, No. 4:10-cr-00963-RBH (D.S.C.). In September 2010, Petitioner pled guilty pursuant to a written plea agreement to two counts of brandishing firearms during crimes of violence-one count from the indictment in this District and one count from the indictment in Indiana. See ECF Nos. 48, 51, & 52. The Court sentenced Petitioner to thirty-two years' imprisonment. See ECF No. 63. Judgment was entered on January 26, 2011, see id., and Petitioner did not file a direct appeal.

         On July 7, 2016, [2] Petitioner filed the instant § 2255 motion and a supporting memorandum.[3]See ECF No. 82. On August 1, 2016, the Government filed a response in opposition and a motion for summary judgment. See ECF Nos. 87 & 88. Petitioner filed several responses in opposition to the Government's motion for summary judgment. See ECF Nos. 91, 93, 95, & 107.

         Legal Standard

         Prisoners in federal custody may attack the validity of their sentences pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For a court to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence under § 2255, a petitioner must prove one of the following occurred: (1) a sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) the court was without jurisdiction to impose such a sentence; (3) the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law; or (4) the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). The district court need not hold an evidentiary hearing on a § 2255 motion if “the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b); see United States v. Thomas, 627 F.3d 534, 538 (4th Cir. 2010). The determination of whether to hold an evidentiary hearing ordinarily is left to the sound discretion of the district court. Raines v. United States, 423 F.2d 526, 530 (4th Cir. 1970).

         “When the district court denies § 2255 relief without an evidentiary hearing, the nature of the court's ruling is akin to a ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” United States v. Poindexter, 492 F.3d 263, 267 (4th Cir. 2007). “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see generally Rule 12 of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Cases (“The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure . . ., to the extent that they are not inconsistent with any statutory provisions or these rules, may be applied to a proceeding under these rules.”). “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record . . .; or (B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, with all reasonable inferences drawn in that party's favor. The court therefore cannot weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations.” Reyazuddin v. Montgomery Cty., 789 F.3d 407, 413 (4th Cir. 2015) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

         Discussion

         Petitioner asserts he is entitled to be resentenced in light of Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), arguing Johnson implicitly invalidated the residual clause in 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B) and therefore armed bank robbery is no longer a crime of violence for purposes of § 924(c). See ECF No. 82 at pp. 4-8. The Government contends, inter alia, that Johnson is inapplicable because armed bank robbery satisfies the force clause of § 924(c)(3)(A). See ECF No. 87 at pp. 3, 11-12.

         “Section 924(c) prohibits the possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence or a drug trafficking crime.” United States v. Hare, 820 F.3d 93, 105-06 (4th Cir. 2016) (emphasis removed).

As defined in § 924(c)(3), the phrase “crime of violence” means a felony offense that either: “(A) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or (B) . . . by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.” We have referred to subparagraph (A) of § 924(c)(3) as the “force clause” and to subparagraph (B) as the “residual clause.”

United States v. McNeal, 818 F.3d 141, 151-52 (4th Cir. 2016). In McNeal, the Fourth Circuit held “bank robbery under § 2113(a) constitutes a crime of violence under the force clause of § 924(c)(3).” Id. at 153; see Id. at 157 (“Because bank robbery is a lesser-included offense of § 2113(d) armed bank robbery, armed bank robbery is also a crime of violence under the force clause.”). The Fourth Circuit noted that “[b]ecause § 2113(a) bank robbery satisfies the § 924(c)(3) force clause, we do not consider whether Johnson renders the § 924(c)(3) residual clause unconstitutionally vague.” Id. at 152 n.8.

         Based on McNeal, Petitioner's § 924(c) convictions are valid because they are predicated on § 2113(d) armed bank robberies, which are crimes of violence under the force clause of § 924(c)(3). See Id. at 157; see, e.g., United States v. Stroman, No. 3:02-cr-00086-CMC, 2016 WL 5661682 (D.S.C. Sept. 30, 2016) (applying McNeal and denying a § 2255 motion for similar reasons), appeal dismissed, 673 ...


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