Argued: January 31, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of North Carolina, at Charlotte. Robert J. Conrad,
Jr., District Judge. (3:15-cr-00295-RJC-DCK-1)
B. Carpenter, FEDERAL DEFENDERS OF WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA,
INC., Asheville, North Carolina, for Appellant.
Elizabeth Ray, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY,
Asheville, North Carolina, for Appellee.
Anthony Martinez, Federal Public Defender, FEDERAL DEFENDERS
OF WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA, INC., Charlotte, North Carolina,
Andrew Murray, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED
STATES ATTORNEY, Charlotte, North Carolina, for Appellee.
WILKINSON, NIEMEYER, and KING, Circuit Judges.
NIEMEYER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Darryl Eugene Mills pleaded guilty to one count of possession
of a firearm by a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
922(g)(1), the district court sentenced him to 70 months'
imprisonment. That sentence was at the low end of the 70 to
87 month advisory range that the district court found was
applicable under the Sentencing Guidelines, which was based
in part on the district court's conclusion that
Mills's prior North Carolina conviction for assault with
a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury was a conviction
for a "crime of violence." In response to
Mills's argument that his prior North Carolina conviction
was not for a crime of violence as defined in the Sentencing
Guidelines and therefore that the sentencing range should
have been 37 to 46 months' imprisonment, the district
court stated that even if it did not treat the prior
conviction as a qualifying predicate, it would have imposed
the same 70-month sentence as an upward variance sentence
because it believed that 70 months was "necessary and
sufficient but not greater than necessary . . . to accomplish
the [18 U.S.C. §] 3553(a) factors," based on the
reasons that the court had already explained to Mills.
appeal, Mills again argues that his prior North Carolina
conviction did not qualify as a conviction for a crime of
violence and that the district court erred in so concluding.
While the reasons Mills gives are not without persuasive
force, we nonetheless conclude that any error that the
district court might have committed in treating Mills's
prior North Carolina conviction as a crime-of-violence
predicate was harmless because the court would have imposed
the same 70-month sentence regardless of how it resolved the
disputed Guidelines issue and the 70-month sentence would, in
the circumstances, have been reasonable. See, e.g.,
United States v. Gomez-Jimenez, 750 F.3d 370, 382-86
(4th Cir. 2014). Accordingly, we affirm.
morning of September 11, 2015, police officers, using their
vehicles, blocked Mills's vehicle, which was at a gas
station in Charlotte, North Carolina, with the purpose of
arresting the passenger in Mills's vehicle on an
outstanding warrant. Mills attempted to bypass the blockade
by driving in reverse, but in doing so, he hit an unmarked
police vehicle behind him. He then "spun his tires in an
attempt to evade apprehension." But after he realized
that his vehicle was boxed in, he complied with the
officers' commands. As the officers approached
Mills's vehicle, they observed a handgun in ...