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Williams v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

March 29, 2017

CHAUNCEY L. WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION TO VACATE, SET ASIDE, OR CORRECT SENTENCE

          BENJAMIN H. SETTLE United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner Chauncey L. Williams's (“Williams”) motion to vacate, set aside or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Dkt. 1. The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and hereby denies the motion for the reasons stated herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 24, 2013, Williams was convicted of armed postal robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2114(a). CR11-5505, Dkts. 213, 246. Williams was also convicted of brandishing a weapon in furtherance of a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii). Id. The Court calculated Williams's Sentencing Guidelines range as 63- 78 months on the armed postal robbery charge and a mandatory consecutive minimum of 84 months on the “brandishing in furtherance” charge, for an effective total range of 147 to 162 months. Id., Dkt. 274 at 8. On February 10, 2014, the Court sentenced Williams below the guidelines range to 120 total months of imprisonment. Id., Dkts. 245, 246.

         On June 24, 2016, Williams filed the instant petition. Dkt. 1. Williams argues that his conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii) was unconstitutional on the basis that armed postal robbery is not a “crime of violence” under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3). Id. He seeks relief under Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015) (“Johnson II”), and Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016). Id. On November 14, 2016, the Government responded. Dkt. 10. The Government opposes Williams's motion on numerous procedural grounds and also argues that Johnson II is inapplicable to Williams's sentence. Id. On December 13, 2016, Williams replied. Dkt. 13.

         On February 15, 2017, the Court requested supplemental briefing in light of the Ninth Circuit's previous ruling in United States v. Hasan, 983 F.2d 150 (9th Cir. 1992). In Hasan, the Ninth Circuit determined that postal robbery under 18 U.S.C. § 2114(a) categorically qualifies as a crime of violence under the elements clause of U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(1). Id. at 151.

         On February 27, 2016, Williams filed supplemental briefing. Dkt. 15. On March 7, the Government filed its supplemental briefing. Dkt. 18. On March 17, 2017, Williams replied. Dkt. 21.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Williams argues that his sentence is unconstitutional on the basis that he was wrongly convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii). “When collaterally attacked, [a] judgment of a court carries with it a presumption of regularity.” Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458, 468 (1938). Therefore, the burden is on Williams to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that his “sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). See also Zerbst, 304 U.S. at 468-69; Simmons v. Blodgett, 110 F.3d 39, 41-42 (9th Cir. 1997).

         A. Legal Framework

         To be convicted under § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii), a defendant must have “brandished” a firearm in furtherance of a predicate drug trafficking crime or a “crime of violence.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii). Williams argues that his conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii) should be vacated on the grounds that the “residual clause” of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B) is unconstitutional under Johnson II and, consequently, armed postal robbery is no longer a predicate “crime of violence” under § 924(c)(3).

         In Johnson II, the Court determined that the residual clause under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii) of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) is void for unconstitutional vagueness. 135 S.Ct. 2551. The ACCA residual clause states:

The term “violent felony” means any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, . . . that . . . 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)(ii) (emphasis added). Williams relies on Johnson II and the Ninth Circuit's reasoning in Dimaya v. Lynch, 803 F.3d 1110 (9th Cir. 2015), cert. granted, 137 S.Ct. 31 (2016), to argue that the residual clause of § 924(c)(3)(B) is likewise unconstitutionally vague. Similar to the ACCA, the § 924(c)(3) residual clause provides:

For the purposes of this subsection, the term “crime of violence” means an 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. § 924(c)(3) (emphasis added).

         However, before the Court determines whether the § 924(c)(3)(B) residual clause is unconstitutional under Johnson II, the Court may first consider whether § 924(c)(3)(B) is applicable to Williams's sentence. To do so, Williams must show that his armed postal robbery conviction was categorized as a crime of violence under the residual clause, as opposed to the elements clause of § 924(c)(3)(A). See Knox v. United States, C16-5502 BHS, 2017 WL 347469, at *2 (W.D. Wash. Jan. 24, 2017); Doriety vs. United States, 2:16-cv-00924-JCC, Dkt. 12 (W.D. Wash. 2016).

         B. ...


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