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United States v. Langley

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

September 25, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
WILLIAM LANGLEY, JR., Petitioner.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Robert E. Payne, United States District Judge.

         William Langley, Jr., a federal inmate proceeding with counsel, filed this 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Motion ("§ 2255 Motion, " ECF No. 141) arguing that his convictions and sentences are invalid under Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). The Government initially filed a Motion to Dismiss the § 2255 Motion contending that it is barred by the relevant statute of limitations. (ECF No. 147-2.) Thereafter, the Court ordered further briefing. In its most recent Supplemental Memorandum, the Government now argues that Langley's claim lacks merit. (ECF No. 165.) For the reasons set out below, the § 2255 Motion will be granted and Count Two and its corresponding sentence will be vacated.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         A grand jury returned a three-count Indictment charging Langley with conspiracy to commit robbery affecting commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1951(a) ("conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery") (Count One); use and discharge firearm during a crime of violence causing death of another, to wit: "Overt Act 3 of the Conspiracy alleged in Count One, " in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A), 924 (j), and 2 (Count Two); and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence as alleged in Count One, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) and 2 (Count Three). (Sec. Superseding Indictment 1-7, ECF No. 39.)

         On March 2, 2012, Langley pled guilty to Counts One and Two and the Government agreed to dismiss Count Three. (Plea Agreement ¶¶ 1, 12 ECF No. 50.) On July 3, 2012, the Court sentenced Langley to 240 months of imprisonment on Count One and life imprisonment on Count Two, to run concurrently. (J. 2, ECF No. 87.)

         On June 21, 2016, [1] Langley filed this § 2255 Motion arguing that his conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) in Count Two must be vacated because of the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). Thereafter, the Government moved to dismiss, arguing that the § 2255 Motion is barred by the relevant statute of limitations.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Johnson and Progeny

         In Johnson, the Supreme Court held "that imposing an increased sentence under the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act [("ACCA")] violates the Constitution's guarantee of due process, " 135 S.Ct. at 2563, because the Residual Clause of the ACCA, 18 U.S.C. § 924 (e) (2) (B) (ii), defined "violent felony" in an unconstitutionally vague manner for the reason that the Residual Clause encompassed "conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another, " which defied clear definition. Id. at 2557-58 (citation omitted). Subsequently, in Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016), the Supreme Court held that "Johnson announced a substantive rule [of law] that has retroactive effect in cases on collateral review." Id. at 1268.

         In his § 2255 Motion, Langley asserts that after Johnson, conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery can no longer qualify as a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3), and thus, that his conviction under Count Two must be vacated. As explained below, recent decisions from the Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit support Langley's challenge to Count Two where his firearm conviction was predicated upon conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery.

         Title 18 U.S.C. section 924(c)(1)(A) provides for consecutive periods of imprisonment when a defendant uses or carries a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. The baseline additional period of imprisonment is five years. 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (1) (A) (i) . If the defendant brandishes the firearm, the additional period of imprisonment increases to at least seven years. Id. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii). And, if the defendant discharges the firearm, the additional period of imprisonment increases to at least ten years. Id. § 924(c) (1) (A) (iii).

         At the time of Langley's convictions, the United States could demonstrate that an underlying offense constitutes a crime of violence if it established that the offense is a felony and satisfies one of two requirements. Namely, the statute defined a crime of violence as any felony:

(A) [that] has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another [(the "Force Clause")], 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 ...

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