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United States v. Goffigan

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

November 3, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
BRIAN LEE GOFFIGAN, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         This matter came before the Court on October 31, 2016, during the sentencing of Brian Lee Goffigan ("Defendant"), whereupon Defendant objected to his career-offender classification under Section 4B1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual ("U.S.S.G." or "Sentencing Guidelines") on the grounds that his prior robbery conviction under Virginia Code § 18.2-58 is not a "crime of violence" under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2. ECF No. 33 at 4-10. For the reasons stated at Defendant's sentencing hearing, which are detailed herein, the Court FOUND that Virginia robbery is a crime of violence for purposes of the career offender enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 4B 1.1 and accordingly OVERRULED Defendant's objection.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 7, 2016, Defendant waived indictment and pled guilty before this Court to a single-count criminal information charging him with Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine Base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C). ECF No. 25. In the presentence investigation report ("PSR") prepared by the probation officer, Defendant was assigned a "Chapter Four Enhancement" pursuant to U.S.S.G. §§ 4Bl.l(a) and 4B1.1(b)(2) for being a "career offender, " which resulted in an adjusted offense level of 34. ECF No. 30. In support, the PSR stated that "defendant has at least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense, " including a 2001 state conviction for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute (a controlled substance offense) and a 2002 state conviction for robbery (a crime of violence). Id. The PSR also reflects a 2002 state conviction for abduction stemming from the same offense conduct underlying the robbery conviction. Id.

         On October 25, 2016, Defendant filed his Position on Sentencing in which he raised four objections to the PSR's application of the Sentencing Guidelines. ECF No. 33. One of these objections was that the career offender enhancement should not apply because Defendant does not have a prior conviction for a "crime of violence, " as neither his Virginia robbery conviction nor his Virginia abduction conviction satisfies the definition set out in U.S.S.G. § 4B 1.2(a). Id. at 4-10. The Government disagreed and argued in its position paper that Defendant's prior Virginia robbery conviction was properly categorized as a crime of violence for purposes of the career offender enhancement. ECF No. 32. In addition, the Government argued that Defendant's prior conviction for Virginia abduction is also a crime of violence under Section 4B1.2(a), making the career offender enhancement proper in any case. Id.

         On October 31, 2016, Defendant appeared before this Court for sentencing, at which time Defendant withdrew all of his objections to the PSR relating to the Sentencing Guidelines except the objection to the career offender enhancement. After hearing oral argument on the issue from both parties, the Court found that Defendant's prior Virginia robbery conviction is a crime of violence under U.S.S.G. §4B1.2(a) and that Defendant was therefore properly classified as a career offender under U.S.S.G. § 4Bl.l(a). The Court ultimately sentenced Defendant to a term of 200 months in prison and six years of supervised release, which fell within the advisory range suggested by the Sentencing Guidelines.

         II. APPLICABLE LAW

         A. The Career Offender Designation under U.S.S.G. § 4Bl.l(a)

         Chapter Four of the Sentencing Guidelines assigns certain sentencing enhancements to defendants who qualify as "career offenders, " including a potentially higher adjusted offense level and an automatic Criminal History Category of VI. U.S.S.G. §4Bl.l(b). A defendant qualifies as a "career offender" for these purposes if:

(1) the defendant was at least eighteen years old at the time the defendant committed the instant offense of conviction; (2) the instant offense of conviction is a felony that is either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense; and (3) the defendant has at least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense.

U.S.S.G. § 4Bl.l(a). The term "crime of violence" is defined in Section 4B 1.2(a) as:

any offense under federal or state law, punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, that-
(1) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another, or
(2) is burglary of a dwelling, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.

Id. ยง4B 1.2(a) (emphasis added). Subpart (1) of this definition is referred to as the "force clause, " while subpart (2) contains the "residual clause, " which is ...


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