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United States v. Boyd

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

May 5, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JUNMALL J. BOYD, Petitioner.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MICHAEL E URBANSKI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDE.

         Petitioner Junmall J. Boyd brings this habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, asking the court to vacate or correct his sentence in light of the United States Supreme Court's recent decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). ECF No. 70. The government has moved to dismiss Boyd's § 2255 motion, ECF No. 82 & 83, and Boyd has responded. ECF No. 84. For the reasons that follow, the court will GRANT Boyd's § 2255 motion and DENY the United States' motion to dismiss.[1]

         I.

         On November 17, 2008, a criminal judgment was entered sentencing Boyd to a term of 180 months of incarceration for possession of a firearm by a felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Because the court determined that Boyd had three or more qualifying convictions under the Armed Career Criminal Act (the "ACCA"), he was subject to 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)'s mandatory minimum sentence of 180 months, rather than the 120-month maximum sentence otherwise authomed under § 924(a)(2). The court calculated the sentencing guideline range as being 180 to 210 months and sentenced Boyd to serve the low end of that range in prison.

         The Presentence Investigation Report ("PSR") stated that three of Boyd's prior convictions, referenced at paragraphs 33, 34, and 36 of the PSR, qualified to enhance his sentence under the ACCA. ECF No. 52, at ¶ 21. The PSR listed those convictions as follows: Paragraph 33, a 1993 conviction for Pennsylvania burglary; Paragraph 35, a 2004 conviction for Pennsylvania burglary; and Paragraph 36, a 2004 conviction for Georgia burglary. Boyd made no objection to the PSR, and the plea agreement and sentencing transcript reflect that the parties agreed upon the statutory minimum 180-month sentence. ECF No. 37, at 1; ECF No. 91, at 3-4.

         Boyd previously has filed three motions to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In his first petition, Boyd argued that he was actually innocent of being an armed career criminal based on the Supreme Court's holding in Descamps v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013). The district court held that Boyd could not establish that he was factually innocent of the underlying burglary convictions and denied his petition. ECF No. 58. Boyd's two subsequent § 2255 petitions were dismissed as being successive and lacking approval for filing from the court of appeals. ECF Nos. 63, 66.

         On June 21, 2016, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals granted Boyd's motion to file a second or successive § 2255 motion based on Johnson v. United States. 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015) ("Johnson II").[2] ECF No. 69, and Boyd filed the pending petition the same day. ECF No. 70. In his petition, Boyd challenges the finding that his prior burglary convictions meet the definition of a violent felony under § 924(e).

         The government filed a motion to dismiss, in which it concedes that Boyd's Pennsylvania burglary convictions do not qualify as violent felonies under the ACCA. ECF No. 83, at 1, 3-4. The government argues that Boyd's claim nevertheless must be dismissed, because it does not meet the standard of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h) for second or successive § 2255 petitions, as it was based on the Supreme Court's decisions in Taylor v. United States. 495 U.S. 575 (1990), and Descamps, rather than Johnson II.

         The court held a hearing on November 29, 2016, and this matter is now ripe for adjudication.

         II.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a federal inmate may move the sentencing court to vacate, set aside, or correct the prisoner's sentence. Courts may afford relief where "the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or the laws of the United States." Id. § 2255(a). If the court determines the sentence was unlawfully imposed, the court "shall vacate and set the judgment aside and shall discharge the prisoner or resentence him or grant a new trial or correct the sentence as may appear appropriate." Id. § 2255(b).

         A convicted felon found guilty of possessing a firearm faces a maximum sentence of 120 months. 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2). However, the ACCA provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 months when a defendant was previously convicted of at least three prior serious drug offenses or violent felonies. Id. § 924(e)(1). A violent felony is defined as:

[A]ny 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 die ...

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