Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Chapman v. United States

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

July 19, 2018

SEIFULLAH CHAPMAN, Movant,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Leonie M. Brinkema United States District Judge

         Before the Court is movant Seifullah Chapman's ("movant" or "Chapman") Motion to Vacate Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Dkt. No. 813]. For the reasons that follow, Chapman's motion will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         On June 25, 2003, a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia returned an indictment [Dkt. No. 1] charging Chapman and ten other defendants with a number of offenses, all arising out of their preparations for violent jihad overseas and, with respect to some defendants including Chapman, their travel to Pakistan to train with Laskhar-e-Taiba ("LET"), a militant group that was, at the time, "primarily focused on defeating India's influence in Kashmir," United States v. Khan, 309 F.Supp.2d 789, 807 (E.D. Va. 2004), aff'd in part, remanded for sentencing. 461 F.3d 477 (4th Cir. 2006). In August and September 2003, four of the co-defendants pleaded guilty and, on September 25, 2003, a grand jury returned a 32-count superseding indictment [Dkt. No. 167] charging Chapman and the remaining six co-defendants with various offenses. After the superseding indictment was returned, two of the co-defendants pleaded guilty and the counts against a third co-defendant were severed for trial. The remaining four defendants, including Chapman, proceeded to trial.

         After a nine-day bench trial, the Court issued its findings of fact and conclusions of law. In brief, [1] the evidence introduced at trial established that the co-conspirators, all of whom are Muslim, met each other at different times in the late 1990s in Northern Virginia and many of their initial interactions occurred at the Dar al-Arqam Center ("Center") in Falls Church, Virginia. Khan. 309 F.Supp.2d at 803. In January 2000, some men connected with the Center came up with the idea of setting up a paintball group to "prepare for physical jihad in the sense of physical preparation of possible combat," particularly related to the then-ongoing war in Chechnya. Id. These men recruited a number of individuals, including Chapman, to join the paintball group and, by the early summer, the group regularly played paintball with each other.

         Based on the evidence introduced at trial, the Court concluded that these paintball games were "viewed as not just an opportunity for outdoor exercise, fellowship, and an opportunity to improve self-defense skills, but also as preparation for real combat." Id. Although Chapman had not originally started the paintball group, he emerged as a leader, relying on his prior military experience to train the players, conduct military-type drills, and enforce physical punishments for those who arrived late. Id. at 803-05. Chapman also described the paintball games as a stepping stone to further military training. Id.

         In addition to his activities relating to the paintball group, Chapman also traveled to an LET camp in Pakistan in August 2001. Id. at 808. A co-conspirator had suggested the camp to him, explaining that LET "were good Muslims who provided free military training and that the mountains were scenic." Id. Of the approximately one month Chapman spent at the camp, he spent three days in weapons training and the "remainder of the time hiking in the mountains and performing military drills." Id. at 809.

         After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Chapman returned from the LET camp; however, he maintained some connection with LET. Specifically, Chapman remained in contact with a man known as "Abu Khalid" or "Pal Singh," who the Court found "plays a major role in LET operations," and helped him procure a wireless video module for use in a model aircraft.[2] Id. at 811-14. Moreover, when Singh visited the Washington, D.C. area in the early summer of 2002, Chapman agreed to host him for two days and arranged for him to stay with a co-conspirator for an additional few days. Id. at 813.

         Based on all of the evidence presented at trial, the Court found Chapman guilty of Count 1 (conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371), Count 5 (conspiracy to contribute material support to LET in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339A), Count 11 (conspiracy to possess and use firearms in connection with a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(o)), and Counts 20 and 22 (use and possession of firearms in connection with a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)). Id. at 796. With respect to each of the other counts against Chapman, the Court either found him not guilty or the count was dismissed on his motion for judgment of acquittal under Fed. R. Crim. P. 29. As is relevant to the present motion, the Court found that conspiracy to violate the Neutrality Act and conspiracy to provide material support to LET were both crimes of violence sufficient to act as predicate offenses to support Counts 11, 20, and 22. Id. at 823, 825-26. In addition, the Court found that the specific firearms-related conduct underlying these offenses involved possessing and facilitating the acquisition by co-conspirators of various firearms (Count 11); possessing and selling a Saiga .308 rifle to a co-conspirator (Count 20); and discharging an AK-47 at the LET camp (Count 22). Id.

         On July 29, 2005, Chapman was sentenced[3] to a total of 780 months imprisonment, with credit for time served. [Dkt. No. 600]. This sentence consisted of concurrent sentences of 60 months on Count 1, 120 months on Count 5, and 120 months on Count 11 and consecutive sentences of 300 months on Count 20 and 360 months on Count 22. His convictions and sentence were affirmed on appeal, and the Supreme Court denied his petition for a writ of certiorari. Khan, 461 F.3d 477, cert, denied. 550 U.S. 956 (2007).

         On May 21, 2008, Chapman filed his first Motion to Vacate Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Dkt. No. 670], which raised a number of challenges to his convictions which are not relevant to the current motion. That motion was dismissed on December 23, 2009 [Dkt. No. 725], and Chapman's appeal of the dismissal was also dismissed [Dkt. No. 734].

         On May 3, 2016, after receiving the appropriate authorization from the Fourth Circuit to file a second or successive 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion [Dkt. No. 812], Chapman filed the present Motion to Vacate, in which he argues that his convictions under §§ 924(c) and 924(o) should be vacated because the definition of crime of violence on which they relied is unconstitutionally vague in light of Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). On November 17, 2016, the Court granted the parties' consent motion to hold the Motion to Vacate in abeyance pending the Supreme Court's decision in Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S.Ct. 1204 (2018). [Dkt. No. 869]. On April 17, 2018, the Supreme Court released its decision in Dimaya and, two days later, the Court unstayed the Motion to Vacate and set a briefing schedule on the motion. [Dkt. No. 884]. The Motion to Vacate has now been fully briefed and the Court finds that oral argument would not aid the decisional process. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

         B. Legal Background

         Under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c):

Except to the extent that a greater minimum sentence is otherwise provided by this subsection or by any other provision of law, any person who, during and in relation to any crime of violence or drug trafficking crime (including a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime that provides for an enhanced punishment if committed by the use of a deadly or dangerous weapon or device) for which the person may be prosecuted in a court of the United States, uses or carries a firearm, or who, in furtherance of any such crime, possesses a firearm, shall, in addition to the punishment provided for such crime of violence or drug trafficking crime- (i) be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 5 years; (ii) if the firearm is brandished, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 7 years; and (iii) if the firearm is discharged, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 10 years.

18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). Section 924(c) also provides a definition of the term "crime of violence" for purposes of that section:

[T]he term "crime of violence" means an offense that is a felony and-
(A) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or
(B) that by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.

18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3). The two prongs of this definition are commonly referred to as the "force clause" and the "residual clause" respectively. This provision is not the only place in the United States code where a similar definition appears. Using nearly identical language, 18 U.S.C. § 16 provides:

The term "crime of violence" means-
(a) an offense that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or
(b) any other offense that is a felony and that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.

18 U.S.C. § 16.[4] Similarly, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)[5] defines the term "violent felony" as

any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, or any act of juvenile delinquency involving the use or carrying of a firearm, knife, or destructive device that would be punishable by imprisonment for such term if committed by an adult, that-
(i) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another; or
(ii) is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.

18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B).

         The current Motion to Vacate rests on two Supreme Court cases respectively addressing § 924(e) and § 16: Johnson and Dimaya. In Johnson, the Supreme Court considered a due process vagueness challenge to the portion of § 924(e) defining a violent felony as a crime that "otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another" (the "ACCA residual clause"). See Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 2555. Although the Supreme Court had previously decided four different cases each involving the application of the ACCA residual clause to a specific state crime and had "rejected suggestions by dissenting Justices" in two of those cases that the ACCA residual clause violated "the Constitution's prohibition of vague criminal laws," Id. at 2556, the Johnson Court reversed course, holding that "the indeterminacy of the wide-ranging inquiry required by the residual clause both ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.