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United States v. Taylor

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

August 4, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DAVID ANTHONY TAYLOR, Defendant. Civil Action No. 7:17CV81229

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Glen E. Conrad United States District Judge

         David Anthony Taylor, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, previously moved to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. By memorandum opinion and order entered July 17, 2017, the court granted the government's motion to dismiss. Taylor has now filed a motion for reconsideration under Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and a motion to amend his motion for reconsideration. For the following reasons, the motion to amend will be granted and the amended motion for reconsideration will be denied.

         Background

         On February 13, 2017, Taylor filed a §2255 petition, challenging his conviction for possession of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Taylor argued that conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery is not a predicate crime of violence to sustain such a conviction.

         In granting the government's motion to dismiss, the court noted that Taylor's judgment contained an error (the "Judgment"). It mistakenly reflected that Taylor was convicted of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery. Upon review of the record, including the jury instructions, the verdict sheet, statements made by counsel during trial, and statements made by the court at sentencing, the court concluded that Taylor was instead convicted of the substantive offense of Hobbs Act robbery. See United States v. Taylor. 7:17CV81229, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 110132, at *8-10 (W.D. Va. July 17, 2017). As such, the court directed the Clerk to amend the Judgment to reflect the correct conviction pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 36. Id. at * 10. Taylor now asks, pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, that the court alter or amend its final order granting the government's motion to dismiss. Taylor further asks that the court grant him leave to amend his motion for reconsideration and has submitted an amended motion.[1]

         Standard of Review

         Rule 59(e) provides that a court may, in its discretion, alter or amend a judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e); Robinson v. Wix Filtration Corp., 599 F.3d 403, 433 (4th Cir. 2010) (noting that motions to alter or amend final judgments under Rule 59(e) are discretionary). The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has recognized three grounds for amending a judgment under this rule: "(1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice." Pac. Ins. Co. v. Am. Nat'l Fire Ins. Co., 148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998). Rule 59(e) motions "are not at the disposal of an unsuccessful party to 'rehash' the same arguments and facts previously presented." Rouse v. Nielsen, 851 F.Supp. 717, 734 (D.S.C. 1994) (quoting Keves v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp.. 766 F.Supp. 277, 280 (E.D. Pa. 1991)). Reconsideration "is an extraordinary remedy that should be applied sparingly." Mayfield v. NASCAR. Inc.. 674 F.3d 369, 378 (4th Cir. 2012).

         Discussion

         In the original motion for reconsideration, Taylor asks the court to amend or alter its final order granting the government's motion to dismiss for three reasons: (1) because Taylor relied on the error in the Judgment, (2) because the court should have alerted Taylor about the error prior to dismissing his § 2255 petition, and (3) because the court should retroactively apply the holding of Dean v. United States. 137 S.Ct. 1170 (2017) to Taylor's case. In his amended motion for reconsideration, Taylor argues that the court should vacate its order dismissing Taylor's § 2255 petition and stay further proceedings pending a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in United States v. Ali, Appeal No. 15-322. United States v. Ali is currently being held in abeyance pending the Supreme Court's decision in Dimaya v. Sessions. 803 F.3d 110 (9th Cir. 2015), cert granted. 137 S.Ct. 31. Taylor also asks the court to alter or amend its order dismissing Taylor's § 2255 petition in light of the recent decision in United States v. Havnes. 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21844 (CD. 111. Feb. 6, 2017), which addressed whether Hobbs Act robbery can be accomplished without the use of physical force.

         As to Taylor's first argument, the court is not persuaded that it should amend its order dismissing Taylor's § 2255 petition because Taylor relied upon the error in the Judgment. Taylor avers that he relied blindly on the assistance of counsel, and that he did not fully understand his charges until he arrived at the Bureau of Prisons. He claims that, once incarcerated, he learned that his convictions were listed in the Judgment. At that time, the Judgment erroneously stated that Taylor was convicted of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery.

         The record, however, is rife with instances in which Taylor was made aware that he was being convicted of the actual robberies-not conspiracy to rob. During the opening statements at the first of his two trials[2] at which Taylor was present, counsel for the government stated, "Folks, Mr. Taylor is charged with two counts of robbery under the Hobbs Act." Trial Tr. 24:9-10, October 22, 2012, Docket No. 69. The government made a similar argument in its opening statements in the second trial. See Trail Tr. 21:15-17, Jan. 23, 2013, Docket No. 159 ("We're here today because the gentleman seated there at counsel table, in the brown suit is charged with two counts of robbery . . . ."). In the second trial, during a witness' testimony, Taylor's counsel objected to a certain line of questions, stating, "My client is charged with two distinct instances, not a conspiracy.... The government could have charged him with conspiracy and did not. He is not charged with conspiracy." Id. at 97:16-98:14 (emphasis added). At closing, the government further described Taylor's behavior as a robbery. See Trial Tr. 557:18-21, Jan. 25, 2013, Docket No. 161 ("So you'll have to ask yourself, when he committed these robberies . . . ."). Taylor's own attorney stated to the jury that the firearm counts were "based on the robbery." Id. at 580:1-2 (emphasis added). At sentencing, the court recounted that Taylor was convicted on three counts by a jury, including "Count One, interference with commerce by threats or violence, Hobbs Act robbery." Sent. Tr. 3:10-11, April 23, 2014, Docket No. 162: see also Id. 72:23-25 (admonishing the defendant for being "very deeply involved" in the robberies).

         Additionally, Taylor's own pro se submissions to this court indicate an understanding that he was convicted of Hobbs Act robbery. After sentencing, Taylor appealed his convictions.

         Both the Fourth Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States identified Taylor as being convicted of Hobbs Act robbery. See Taylor v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2074, 2078 (2016) ("Taylor was convicted of two counts of Hobbs Act robbery"); United States v. Taylor, 754 F.3d 217, 220 (4th Cir. 2014) ("Taylor appeals his convictions for two counts of Hobbs Act robbery."). After disposition of his appeal, Taylor submitted a petition for relief, which the court construed as a conditional § 2255 petition. See Order, July 17, 2014, Docket No. 167.[3] Notably, in this submission, Taylor mentions his indictment and conviction of Hobbs Act robbery. Id. at 2-4. Not once does the word "conspiracy" appear, despite the fact that the erroneous judgment was entered several months prior to Taylor's initial § 2255 submission. Finally, Taylor's most recent motion to amend his motion for reconsideration addresses only Hobbs Act robbery-not conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery. Docket No. 228.

         Taylor also had the occasion to argue that Hobbs Act robbery is not a predicate crime of violence. In support of its motion to dismiss, the government asserted that "Taylor was indicted ... and charged with two counts of Hobbs Act robbery." Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss 1, Docket No. 215. The government did not address any argument related to conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery. In responding to the government's motion to dismiss, Taylor had ...


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