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United States v. Rawls

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

August 2, 2018

United States of America
v.
Gregory Lamont Rawls, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant seeks relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, arguing that in light of the Supreme Court's holding in Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015) and Welch v. United States, 578 U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016), he is no longer an armed career criminal and should be resentenced. ECF No. 109. Counsel, appointed by this court, filed a response in support. ECF No. 117. The Government filed a response in opposition and a motion to dismiss Defendant's § 2255 motion. ECF Nos. 118, 119. Defendant did not file a response to the Government's motion to dismiss. This matter is ripe for resolution.

         I. Background

         On August 7, 2012, Defendant was indicted for (1) felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2), and 924(e); (2) possession with intent to distribute a quantity of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(a)(C); and (3) possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). ECF No. 1. On August 29, 2012, the Government filed two Informations to establish prior convictions: one under 21 U.S.C. § 851, and another under 18 U.S.C. §924(e), both exposing Defendant to enhanced penalties. ECF Nos. 23, 24. On January 8, 2013, Defendant entered into a plea agreement to counts one and two, felon in possession and possession with intent to distribute. ECF No. 48. The plea agreement contained a waiver of Defendant's rights to pursue an appeal or file a motion under § 2255. Id. Defendant entered a guilty plea pursuant to the plea agreement on January 8, 2013. ECF No. 50.

         A Pre-Sentence Report (PSR) concluded Defendant was an armed career criminal under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), facing a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of fifteen (15) years and a maximum term of life imprisonment, and a career offender under the Sentencing Guidelines. ECF No. 62. The PSR found that Defendant's prior South Carolina conviction for armed robbery in 1994 was a violent felony and his convictions for possession with intent to distribute cocaine (2000) and possession with intent to distribute cocaine within ½ mile proximity of a school (2005) were for serious drug offenses, all of which qualified as predicate convictions for ACCA and career offender purposes. Id. at ¶¶ 36, 37, 38. Both the armed career criminal and career offender enhancements resulted in offense levels of 34. Id. at ¶¶ 68, 69. With the three point decrease for acceptance of responsibility, Defendant's total offense level was 31, criminal history category VI, resulting in a guideline range of 188-235 months. Id. at ¶ 93. There were no objections to the PSR.

         On April 8, 2013, Defendant appeared for sentencing. The court, granting a defense motion for a sentence below the guideline range, sentenced Defendant to 180 months' imprisonment on each count, concurrent, and a six-year term of supervised release. ECF No. 63. Defendant appealed, but the Fourth Circuit issued an opinion on December 5, 2013, dismissing in part based on the appeal waiver and affirming the district court on all issues not encompassed by the waiver. ECF No. 87.

         Defendant filed an initial § 2255 motion on November 17, 2014. ECF No. 91. After full briefing, this court granted the Government's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the § 2255 motion. ECF No. 98. Defendant received permission from the Fourth Circuit to file a second or successive § 2255 motion, and filed the instant motion on April 26, 2016. ECF Nos. 108, 109.

         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, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another . . . .

18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B). The first clause, § 924(e)(2)(B)(i), is typically referred to as the “use of force” clause (“has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another.”). The first part of the second clause, § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii), lists specific offenses - burglary, arson, extortion, offenses involving use of explosives - and is commonly denoted as the “enumerated offense” clause. Finally, the portion of § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii) covering a conviction that “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another” is generally referred to as the “residual clause.”

         a. ...


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