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United States v. Williams

United States District Court, D. Maine

August 14, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
KOURTNEY WILLIAMS, Defendant.

          ORDER ON GOVERNMENT'S OBJECTION TO PRESENTENCE REPORT

          JON D. LEVY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendant Kourtney Williams was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act Robbery, possession of a firearm by a felon, and using a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime or crime of violence. The Third Revised Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) filed by the Probation Office concluded that Williams does not qualify as a “career offender” under § 4B1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual. The Government objects, arguing that Williams has two prior convictions for crimes of violence, and therefore qualifies as a career offender under § 4B1.1. For the reasons that follow, I find that Williams qualifies as a career offender under the Guidelines.

         I. DISCUSSION

         A. Sentencing Guideline Edition

         The parties disagree as to which edition of the Sentencing Guidelines Manual applies in this case. The Guidelines themselves provide that the Court should use the Guidelines Manual in effect on the date that the defendant is sentenced, unless doing so would violate the ex post facto clause of the Constitution. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 1B1.11(a), (b)(1) (U.S. Sentencing Comm'n 2016). Williams does not explain why use of the 2016 edition of the Guidelines-which will be the edition in effect on his sentencing date-would violate the ex post facto clause.

         The United States Sentencing Commission revised the definition of “crime of violence” in the 2016 edition of the Guidelines, removing the so-called “residual clause” and expanding the list of enumerated offenses that qualify as crimes of violence. See United States v. Childers, 2017 WL 2559858, *6 (D. Me. June 13, 2017). As another judge in this District recently recognized, however, the Supreme Court's decision in Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886, 890 (2017), obviated any ex post facto concerns arising out of the changed definition of “crime of violence” by holding that the residual clause in the Sentencing Guidelines is not subject to vagueness challenges under the Due Process Clause. See Childers, 2017 WL 2559858, at *6 (Woodcock, J.). Before Beckles was decided, the First Circuit held in United States v. Fields, 822 F.3d 20, 33 (1st Cir. 2016), that Application Note 1 to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2 could not be applied because the section's residual clause was unconstitutional based on the Supreme Court's conclusion in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2251 (2015), that the analogous residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act was unconstitutionally vague. Because Beckles effectively overrules Fields, Application Note 1 can again be applied by Courts using the Guidelines. See Childers, 2017 WL 2559858, at *6. Because Application Note 1 enumerates many of the same offenses- including robbery-that are now enumerated in the text of the provision, the analysis of a “crime of violence” is the same under the 2016 edition of the Guidelines as under previous editions, and there is no ex post facto concern. See Id. I will therefore apply the 2016 edition of the Guidelines in this case.

         B. Career Offender Guideline

         The 2016 version of the Sentencing Guidelines provides:

A defendant is a career offender if (1) the defendant was at least eighteen years old at the time the defendant committed the instant offense of conviction; (2) the instant offense of conviction is a felony that is either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense; and (3) the defendant has at least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense.

U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 4B1.1(a) (U.S. Sentencing Comm'n 2016).

         Section 4B1.2 of the Guidelines defines “crime of violence” as

any offense under federal or state law, punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, that--
(1) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another, or
(2) is murder, voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping, aggravated assault, a forcible sex offense, robbery, arson, extortion, or the use or unlawful possession of a firearm described in 26 U.S.C. ยง 5845(a) or ...

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