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United States v. Crause

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

March 28, 2017




         BEFORE THE COURT is the Defendant's Motion to Vacate (ECF No. 85). Defendant seeks to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 based on Johnson v. U.S., 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). Defendant argues Johnson makes the residual clause of U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a) void for vagueness. He also argues this court should re-evaluate its findings at sentencing (which did not rely on the residual clause) that he had two or more qualifying convictions in light of the current legal landscape and find his Robbery and Riot convictions are not currently crimes of violence. As a result, Defendant asserts he did not qualify as a career offender and should be re-sentenced without that enhancement applied to his Guideline Range.

         In response, the Government conceded Johnson invalidates the residual clause of U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a), but opposed the Motion and requested a stay pending the Supreme Court decision in Beckles v. U.S., No. 15-8544. (ECF No. 88). Because of the Government's request for a stay, the court directed the parties to file supplemental briefs addressing whether a stay should be entered. Defendant asserted this matter should not be stayed and his Motion should be granted based on the currently existing case law. (ECF No. 93). The Government argued a stay should be entered to promote judicial economy since Beckles would be dispositive on the threshold issues in the instant matter. (ECF No. 94).

         On March 6, 2017, the Supreme Court rendered its decision in Beckles, holding “the advisory Guidelines are not subject to vagueness challenges under the Due Process Clause.” Beckles v. U.S., __ S.Ct. __, 2017 WL 855781 at *3 (March 6, 2017). The same day, Defendant filed a Notice requesting the court to wait 14 days before issuing a ruling on the Motion so counsel could discuss Beckles with her client. (ECF No. 96). That time has passed and no filing has been made.

         The Motion to Vacate was submitted to this court for hearing without oral argument. This Order memorializes the court's rulings on this matter.

         I. Background

         A. Procedural History

         On March 30, 2010, a Criminal Complaint was filed alleging the Defendant, Kenneth Crause, was illegally in possession of six firearms. (ECF No. 1). When officers executed a search warrant for Defendant's vehicle, they found approximately four ounces of methamphetamine. The laboratory analysis determined the substance weighed 166.2 grams and was 41.3% pure, resulting in 68.6 grams of actual or pure methamphetamine. The search of the residence revealed six firearms, a black-powder pistol, and numerous rounds of .22 caliber ammunition. After waiving his Miranda rights, Defendant later admitted to possessing the firearms knowing they were stolen.

         On April 6, 2010, an Indictment was returned charging Defendant with being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 924. (ECF No. 12). Although not initially charged, the amount of methamphetamine found in Defendant's possession, if charged, would have mandated a minimum of 20 years of incarceration based on his prior felony drug conviction. See 21 U.S.C. §841(b)(1)(A)(viii); 21 U.S.C. § 851(a).

         On June 1, 2010, Defendant pleaded guilty to an Information Superseding Indictment charging him with: (1) Possession of a Stolen Firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(j), 924(a)(2), and 18 U.S.C. § 2; and (2) Possession with Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of a Mixture or Substance Containing a Detectable Amount of Methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B)(viii). (ECF No. 28); (ECF No. 32). The Information Superseding Indictment also alleged Defendant had two prior qualifying drug convictions which mandated a term of incarceration of no less than 10 years on the drug charge pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(a). (ECF No. 28).

         On August 20, 2010, the court held a sentencing hearing wherein the court addressed Defendant's criminal history. At the time of sentencing, Defendant had numerous adult felony convictions, including convictions for three counts of Felony Riot in Washington, a First Degree Robbery conviction in Oregon, and Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver in Washington. Defendant had a total of 23 points of Criminal History. Only 13 points was needed to be in Category VI, the highest category of criminal history.

         The court found Riot could not be considered a crime of violence under the categorical approach because the statute included offenses against property. (ECF No. 52 at 1). However, the court found Defendant's Riot convictions were crimes of violence under the modified categorical approach because Defendant was charged with “use and threaten to use force against a human being” on each count in the charging document. (ECF No. 52 at 1). Because Riot was found to be a crime of violence under the “use of force” clause, and based on the unchallenged controlled substance conviction, the court found Defendant was a Career Offender under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2. (ECF No. 52).

         On September 21, 2012, the court sentenced Defendant to 120 months imprisonment on the firearm charge, the statutory maximum. (ECF No. 72). The court also varied downward from the Guideline Range and imposed 156 months incarceration on the drug charge, to run concurrently with the firearm sentence. (ECF No. 72). No appeal from the Judgment was taken. Without the Career Offender finding, Defendant's Guideline Range would have been 188 to 235 months.

         B. Jo ...

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