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United States v. Burleson

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

March 8, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
ARNOLD PAUL BURLESON, Defendant - Appellant

Argued January 28, 2016

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, at Greensboro. (1:13-cr-00070-CCE-1; 1:13-cv-01158-CCE-LPA). Catherine C. Eagles, District Judge.

ARGUED:

Kevin F. King, COVINGTON & BURLING LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant.

Harry L. Hobgood, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Greensboro, North Carolina, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Robert A. Long, Jr., Gregory L. Halperin, COVINGTON & BURLING LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant.

Ripley Rand, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Greensboro, North Carolina, for Appellee.

Before GREGORY and HARRIS, Circuit Judges, and DAVIS, Senior Circuit Judge.

OPINION

Page 171

PAMELA HARRIS, Circuit Judge:

Arnold Paul Burleson was convicted of several North Carolina felony offenses between 1964 and 1985. Based on those convictions, he pled guilty in 2013 to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), and was sentenced to a fifteen-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment under the Armed Career Criminal Act (" ACCA" ), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). Several months after his sentence was imposed, Burleson filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion asserting that he was actually innocent of the § 922(g) offense. According to Burleson, because his civil rights had been restored by North Carolina following his discharge from parole and long before his 2012 arrest, none of his prior state convictions was a predicate felony conviction for purposes of § 922(g) or § 924(e). We agree. And because Burleson pled guilty to a crime he could not commit, we vacate Burleson's conviction and sentence and remand with instructions to grant his § 2255 motion.

I.

In September 2012, officers with the Sheriff's Department of Rowan County, North Carolina, responded to a report that an intoxicated elderly male with a handgun was committing an assault. When police arrived at the scene, they discovered Burleson and asked if he had a weapon. Burleson admitted that he did and produced a Taurus .357 Magnum caliber handgun. Burleson was subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury, charged with possession of a ...


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