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United States v. Smith

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

May 2, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
RODNEY EUGENE SMITH, Petitioner.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION (DENYING 28 U.S.C. § 2255 MOTION)

          HENRY E. HUDSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Rodney Eugene Smith, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, submitted this motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence ("§ 2255 Motion, " ECF No. 24). In his § 2255 Motion, Smith raises the following claim for relief:

Claim One: "The newly recognized right in Johnson v. [United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015)] renders the career offender penalty unconstitutional under the Due Process clause of the 5thAmendment. The prior conviction utilized to enhance my sentence under the career offender guidelines is no longer permissible or qualifies under the recent Supreme Court's decision." (Id. at 5.)

         The Government responded, asserting that Smith's claim lacks merit. (ECF No. 29.) Smith filed a Reply. (ECF No. 31.) For the reasons set forth below, Smith's § 2255 Motion (ECF No. 24) will be denied.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 16, 2012, a grand jury charged Smith with one count of bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a). (Indictment 1, ECF No. 1.) On September 12, 2012, Smith pled guilty to the one-count Indictment. (Plea Agreement ¶ 1, ECF No. 11.) Prior to sentencing, a Probation Officer determined that Smith qualified as a career offender, stating:

The defendant qualifies for the Career Offender enhancement pursuant to §4B 1.1 of the [United States Sentencing Guidelines] as he was at least 18 years old at the time he committed the instant offense of conviction, the instant offense is a crime of violence, and he [has] a prior felony controlled substance conviction and a prior felony crime of violence conviction.

(Pre-Sentence Investigation Report ("PSR") ¶ 51, ECF No. 15.) Specifically, in 1998, Smith was convicted in this Court of possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine base (id. ¶ 36), and in 2008 he was convicted in this Court of one count of bank robbery and one count of aiding and abetting bank robbery (id. ¶ 39). On December 11, 2012, the Court entered judgment against Smith and sentenced him to 188 months of imprisonment. (J. 2, ECF No. 22.) Smith did not appeal.

         II. ANALYSIS

         As his sole claim for relief, Smith contends that the Supreme Court's recent decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), renders his career offender enhancement unconstitutional. (§ 2255 Mot. 5.) Specifically, Smith alleges that his 2008 convictions for bank robbery and aiding and abetting bank robbery no longer qualify as violent felonies for purposes of the enhancement. (Reply 2, ECF No. 31.)

         A. Johnson and the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA")

         As the Supreme Court has noted,

[u]nder the [ACCA] ¶ 1984, a defendant convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm faces more severe punishment if he has three or more previous convictions for a "violent felony, " a term defined to include any felony that "involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another."

Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 2555 (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)). This part of the definition of violent felony "ha[s] come to be known as the Act's residual clause." Id. The Johnson Court held "that imposing an increased sentence under the residual clause of the [ACCA] violates the ...


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