United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division
Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge
Lyle Dennis Hager, III, brings this petition pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2255, asking the court to vacate, set aside, or
correct his sentence in light of the United States Supreme
Court's decision in Johnson v. United States.
135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). ECF No. 204. The government has moved
to dismiss Hager's § 2255 motion. ECF No. 212. For
the reasons that follow, the court will
GRANT Hagers's § 2255 motion and
DENY die United States' motion to
January 5, 2010, Hager pleaded guilty to three counts of a
superseding indictment: (1) drug conspiracy in violation of
21 U.S.C. § 846; (2) possession of a firearm by a
convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1);
and (3) possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug
trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1).
to sentencing the United States Probation Department prepared
a Presentence Investigation Report ("PSR"). The PSR
recommended that Hager be considered an armed career criminal
and receive an enhanced sentence under the Armed Career
Criminal Act ("ACCA"), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e),
based on four prior convictions: (1) Virginia breaking and
entering (1997); (2) possession with intent to distribute
methamphetamine (1998); and (3) distribution of
methamphetamine (two counts) (1998). PSR ¶¶ 38, 41,
and 42, ECF No. 149. Hagar objected to his ACCA enhancement,
arguing that his Virginia burglary conviction should not
count as a predicate offense and that his two counts for
distribution of methamphetamine should count as only one
predicate. Id. at Addendum. The probation officer
responded that Hagar's prior convictions were properly
classified as ACCA predicates and that another of his prior
convictions, Virginia feloniously eluding police (2003), also
supported his armed career criminal designation. Id.
court overruled Hager's objections to his ACCA
enhancement, adopted the PSR without change, and sentenced
Hager to 180 months' incarceration for his drug
conspiracy and § 922(g) offenses and a consecutive 60
months' incarceration for his § 924(c) offense.
Judgment at 2, ECF No. 141.
accordance with Standing Rule 15-5, the court appointed the
Federal Public Defender's Office to represent Hager with
regard to any claim for relief that he might have under
§ 2255 following the Johnson decision. Hager
had previously filed a § 2255 motion, but the United
States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit granted him
permission to file a second or subsequent motion. ECF No.
203. Subsequently, defense counsel filed a § 2255 motion
alleging that Johnson invalidated Hagar's ACCA
enhanced sentence because his Virginia burglary and elude
arrest convictions no longer qualify as violent felonies and
his two drug distribution convictions count as one predicate.
§ 2255 Mot. at 1, ECF No. 204; Supp. § 2255 Mot. at
1, ECF No. 223.
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 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). Hager 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, " that were "committed on
occasions different from one another, " 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 ACCA defines ...