United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Danville Division
AMENDED MEMORANDUM OPINION
Jackson L. Kiser, Senior United States District Judge
Eligia Junior Martin, a federal inmate, filed a motion to
vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255, challenging his 180-month sentence following a
guilty plea. Martin asserts that he no longer qualifies as an
armed career criminal under the Armed Career Criminal Act
(“ACCA”) because his predicate convictions no
longer support such a designation following the Supreme
Court's decision in Johnson v. United States,
135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). The government filed a motion to
dismiss, and Martin responded, making this matter ripe for
disposition. After careful review of the record, and in light
of Johnson, the court will grant Martin's §
2255 motion, and deny the government's motion to dismiss.
December 28, 2006, Martin was charged with being a felon in
possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§§ 922(g) and 924(e). Indictment at 4, ECF No. 3.
Martin pleaded guilty, pursuant to a written plea agreement.
ECF No. 128.
Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) was
created prior to sentencing. It recommended that Martin be
designated an armed career criminal based on three prior
Virginia convictions for statutory burglary. PSR ¶ 31,
32, ECF No. 88. Because of this designation, the PSR
recommended a total offense level of 30 and a criminal
history category of IV, resulting in a sentencing range of
135 to 168 months' incarceration. Id. ¶ 61.
In addition, he faced a statutory mandatory minimum sentence
of 15 years' incarceration. Id. at 60; 18 U.S.C.
§ 924(e)(2). Without the armed career criminal
enhancement, Martin would have faced a statutory maximum of
ten years' incarceration. 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2). I
adopted the PSR and sentenced Martin to 180 months'
imprisonment to run concurrent to a state sentence that he
had previously received. Judgment at 2, ECF No. 180. Martin
did not appeal.
his conviction, Martin filed numerous § 2255 motions,
ECF Nos. 133, 142, 174, 197, all of which were denied. Prior
to filing his most recent § 2255 motion, Martin received
authorization from the United States Court of Appeals for the
Fourth Circuit to file a successive petition. Notice at 1,
ECF No. 235.
§ 2255 motion, Martin alleges that the Supreme
Court's Johnson decision invalidates his ACCA
enhanced sentence because his Virginia predicate convictions
no longer qualify as violent felonies. The court appointed
the Federal Public Defender's Office to represent Martin,
although it declined to provide supplemental briefing and I
granted its subsequent motion to withdraw. Notice of
Non-filing, ECF No 238, Order Granting Withdrawal, 239. The
government filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that
Martin's petition was time barred and that Virginia
burglary qualifies as a violent felony, even after
Johnson. Martin filed a motion to appoint counsel,
recognizing that the arguments raised in the motion to
dismiss had not been resolved in this district. Motion at
1-2, ECF No. 254. I appointed counsel to represent Martin,
who filed an amended § 2255 motion. ECF No. 259.
state a viable claim for relief under § 2255, a
petitioner must prove: (1) that his sentence was
“imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of
the United States;” (2) that “the court was
without jurisdiction to impose such a sentence;” or (3)
that “the sentence was in excess of the maximum
authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral
attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). When a petitioner
already has filed a § 2255 motion, he may obtain relief
in a second or subsequent petition by establishing that
“a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to
cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was
previously unavailable, ” invalidates his sentence.
Id. § 2255(h). Martin bears the burden of
proving grounds for a collateral attack by a preponderance of
the evidence. Miller v. United States, 261 F.2d 546,
547 (4th Cir. 1958).
The ACCA Enhanced Sentence Structure
challenges the viability of the predicate offenses used to
support his status as an armed career criminal. Federal law
prohibits convicted felons from possessing firearms. 18
U.S.C. § 922(g). Defendants who violate this law are
subject to a term of up to ten years' imprisonment. 18
U.S.C. § 924(a)(2). However, when defendants convicted
of a § 922(g) charge have three or more prior
convictions for “serious drug offenses” or
“violent felonies, ” they qualify as armed career
criminals under the ACCA. Armed career criminals face an
increased punishment: a statutory mandatory minimum of
fifteen years' imprisonment and a maximum of life. 18
U.S.C. § 924(e)(1).
Johnson, the Supreme Court invalidated part of the
definition of “violent felony” under the ACCA.
135 S.Ct. at 2563. The ...