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United States v. Fields

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Abingdon Division

November 1, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JAMES REECE FIELDS, Defendant.

          Jennifer R. Bockhorst, Assistant United States Attorney, Abingdon, Virginia, for United States; Brian J. Beck, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Abingdon, Virginia, for Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          James P. Jones United States District Judge.

         James Reece Fields, previously sentenced by this court following conviction by a jury of five counts of illegal possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), has filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, contending that his sentence under the provisions of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), is invalid. For the reasons that follow, I will deny the motion.

         I.

         At his sentencing on January 31, 2000, Fields was found by the court to be an armed career criminal pursuant to the ACCA. The ACCA provides that a person convicted of a violation of § 922(g), who “has three previous convictions by any court . . . for a violent felony or a serious drug offense . . . shall be . . . imprisoned not less than fifteen years.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1).

         As shown by the probation officer's Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”), Fields, who was 58 years old at the time of sentencing, had been previously convicted of 59 separate Virginia felony burglaries in three different Virginia counties between 1967 and 1981, as well as one North Carolina felony burglary, and Virginia unlawful wounding, abduction, and robbery felony offenses. He had also been convicted of numerous other crimes, including a 1982 conviction in federal court for being a felon in possession of a firearm. These convictions resulted in his being in either state or federal custody between 1981 and 1994.

         No objection was made to the probation officer's recommendation in the PSR that Fields be sentenced as an armed career criminal. His Sentencing Guideline range was determined to be 235 to 293 months and he was sentenced at the high end of that range.[1] Fields' appeal was unsuccessful. United States v. Fields, No. 00-4119, 2000 WL 1336483, at *1 (4th Cir. Sept. 15, 2000) (unpublished) (holding that evidence was sufficient for jury to convict).

         Thereafter, on December 21, 2005, Fields filed a pro se § 2255 motion, which was denied as untimely. Fields v. United States, No. Civ.A.7:05-CV-00778, 2005 WL 3533432 (W.D. Va. Dec. 22, 2005).

         On September 8, 2015, following Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), the Federal Public Defender for this district was appointed by the court to represent Fields in connection with a possible § 2255 motion. On May 19, 2016, the Federal Public Defender filed in the court of appeals an Application for Leave to File a Successive Motion on Fields' behalf, together with a proposed § 2255 motion. The court of appeals granted the application and transferred the § 2255 motion for filing in this court. In re Fields, No. 16-848 (4th Cir. June 13, 2016). The § 2255 motion asserts that Fields' Virginia burglary convictions and Virginia abduction conviction were invalid predicates for his ACCA sentence.

         The government has filed a Motion to Dismiss the defendant's § 2255 motion. The issues have been fully briefed and are ripe for decision.[2]

         II.

         Prior to Johnson, the term “violent felony” was defined as any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year . . . 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 ...

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