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United States v. Chaney

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

December 19, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
DARIUS LATRON CHANEY, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: September 26, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, at Charlotte. Max O. Cogburn, Jr., District Judge. (3:03-cr-00040-MOC-1; 3:12-cv-00434-MOC)

         ARGUED:

          Ann L. Hester, FEDERAL DEFENDERS OF WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA, INC., Charlotte, North Carolina, for Appellant.

          Anthony J. Enright, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Charlotte, North Carolina, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Ross Hall Richardson, Interim Federal Public Defender, FEDERAL DEFENDERS OF WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA, INC., Charlotte, North Carolina, for Appellant.

          Jill Westmoreland Rose, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Charlotte, North Carolina, for Appellee.

          Before GREGORY, Chief Judge, and NIEMEYER and AGEE, Circuit Judges.

          NIEMEYER, CIRCUIT JUDGE:

         In August 2003, Darius Latron Chaney pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to (1) carjacking, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2119; (2) use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); and (3) possession of a firearm by a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Under the plea agreement, the government agreed, among other things, to dismiss two additional counts and to recommend that Chaney receive adjustments to his sentence for acceptance of responsibility. The plea agreement also provided that Chaney, "in exchange for the concessions made by the United States . . . waive[d] the right to contest either the conviction or the sentence in any direct appeal or other post-conviction action, including any proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 2255." The waiver excepted claims for ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct.

         At sentencing, the district court imposed an aggregate sentence of 272 months' imprisonment, consisting of two concurrent sentences of 180 months on the carjacking count and 188 months on the § 922(g)(1) count and a statutory mandatory consecutive sentence of 84 months on the § 924(c) count. At the time of his sentencing, Chaney had five prior North Carolina convictions for breaking and entering, any one of which was used to support the element of his § 922(g)(1) conviction that he be a felon. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (defining a predicate felony offense as a "crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year"). The prior North Carolina convictions also enhanced Chaney's sentence on that conviction, as well as on his carjacking conviction.

         In 2012, following our decision in United States v. Simmons, 649 F.3d 237 (4th Cir. 2011) (en banc), Chaney filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, challenging his § 922(g)(1) conviction and sentence, as well as his carjacking sentence. In Simmons, we held that North Carolina convictions such as Chaney's are not "punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year" and therefore do not qualify as felonies under federal law. See 649 F.3d at 243-49. Accordingly, Chaney claimed that none of his prior offenses supported the element of his § 922(g)(1) conviction that he be a felon. He also argued that the unlawful § 922(g)(1) conviction affected his sentencing on the carjacking count and accordingly requested resentencing.

         In response, the government agreed that Chaney was "actually innocent of the § 922(g)(1) conviction because he was not a felon at the time," and therefore it stated that, as to that count, it was waiving its defenses based on the waiver in Chaney's plea agreement and the statute of limitations under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(f) in order to allow vacation of Chaney's § 922(g)(1) conviction and sentence. But the government limited its waiver to the § 922(g)(1) conviction and continued to ...


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