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United States v. Heathcote

United States District Court, D. Maine

September 30, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
WALTER HEATHCOTE, Defendant.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S 28 U.S.C. § 2255 PETITION

          Nancy Torresen, United States District Judge.

         In 2014, Petitioner pleaded guilty to Hobbs Act robbery, 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a), and possession of a firearm by a felon, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and § 924(e)(1). At his sentencing, I determined that Petitioner had been convicted of at least three qualifying prior crimes of violence and sentenced him to 180 months under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). Judgment (ECF No. 44).

         Before me now is Petitioner's Motion to Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 52.) For the reasons that follow, I now DENY the motion.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 2, 2013, Petitioner served as the getaway driver for two individuals who committed an armed robbery of the Family Dollar Store in Biddeford. Prosecution Version (ECF No. 32). On December 18, 2014, Petitioner pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting a Hobbs Act robbery and possessing a firearm as a felon. (ECF No. 35). Because Petitioner had eight burglary convictions under Maine law[1] prior to the commission of his federal offense, he fell under ACCA, [2] and he faced a guideline sentencing range of 188-234 months and a fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence. Presentence Investigation Report at ¶¶ 32, 35, 63. On March 30, 2015, I sentenced Petitioner to 180 months on Counts One and Two to be served concurrently. (ECF Nos. 44-45.)

         Petitioner did not file a direct appeal of his sentence, but on June 27, 2016, following the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015) (“Johnson II”), holding ACCA's “residual clause”[3] unconstitutional, Petitioner filed this habeas petition. Petitioner asserted that because Johnson II struck down the residual clause and because Maine's burglary statute was broader than generic burglary, his burglaries were ineligible[4] to serve as predicates under ACCA's enumerated clause after Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016). Mathis held that an Iowa burglary statute encompassing vehicle burglaries could not support an ACCA sentence because it was broader than the generic definition of burglary. 136 S.Ct. at 2251. Petitioner's primary argument was that, because the Maine burglary statute allows conviction for entry into structures adapted for overnight accommodation, such as campers and boats, it was too broadly defined to constitute generic burglary under ACCA's enumerated clause.

         In response, the Government argued that Petitioner's prior Maine burglary convictions were categorically burglaries under ACCA's “enumerated” clause. See Gov't Resp. in Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Correct Sentence 5 (ECF No. 56) (citing United States v. Duquette, 778 F.3d 314 (1st Cir. 2015), cert. denied, 136 S.Ct. 262 (2015)). In Duquette, the First Circuit concluded that Section 401(1) of Maine's burglary statute qualified as a “violent felony” under ACCA, because “[b]y its clear and unambiguous terms, the statute contains all of the elements of ‘generic burglary' that the Supreme Court set forth in Taylor.” Duquette, 778 F.3d at 318.

         In reply, Petitioner argued that Duquette was no longer good law in light of Mathis. Pet.'s Reply 14-16 (ECF No. 57). Petitioner also added a new argument that because Maine law allows an inference of burglary based on “exclusive possession” of property recently stolen in a burglary, 17-A M.R.S.A. § 361(A)(1), it is broader than generic burglary. Pet.'s Reply 9-10. Because Petitioner raised a new argument in his Reply, I allowed the Government to file a Sur-reply to address the merits of Petitioner's additional arguments. (ECF No. 59.)

         After the motion was fully briefed and under advisement, I stayed decision at Petitioner's unopposed request, pending decisions in United States v. Casey, 2016 WL 6581178 (D. Me. Nov. 3, 2016); Collamore v. United States, 2016 WL 6304668 (D. Me. Oct. 27, 2016); and Dimott v. United States, 2016 WL 6068114 (D. Me. Oct. 14, 2016). (ECF No. 63.) The First Circuit consolidated these cases and affirmed the lower courts' rulings that each of these petitions was procedurally barred. United States v. Dimott, 881 F.3d 232, 236 (1st Cir. 2018). Each of the petitioners asserted that he was sentenced under the residual clause invalidated by Johnson II and that his burglary conviction fell outside ACCA's enumerated clause under Mathis. Id. The First Circuit held that each petitioner bore the burden of proving that he was in fact sentenced under the residual, rather than the enumerated, clause. In two of the cases, the judge on collateral review (who had also been the sentencing judge) found that the petitioners had been sentenced pursuant to the enumerated clause, making it easy for the First Circuit to conclude that the petitioners were actually sentenced under the enumerated clause. Id. at 236-37. In the third case, the record was silent on whether the sentencing judge had used the enumerated or residual clause in finding that the underlying conviction qualified under ACCA. Id. at 238. The First Circuit affirmed the denial of the third petition on the ground that the petitioner had failed his burden of production and proof under § 2255 to show that he was sentenced under the now-void residual clause. Id. at 240. The First Circuit concluded:

All three petitions are untimely because they raise Mathis, not Johnson II claims, and Mathis does not reset the one-year statute of limitations under § 2255(f)(3). The petitioners have no Johnson II claims because they have not shown that their original ACCA sentences were based solely on the residual clause.

Id. at 234.

         In December of 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that state burglary statutes that cover vehicles designed or adapted for overnight use fall within the generic burglary definition. United States v. Stitt, 139 S.Ct. 399, 406-07 (2018). After Stitt was decided, Petitioner's counsel filed a status report conceding that Stitt went directly to the merits of Petitioner's primary claim. Status Report (ECF No. 64).

         I held a telephone conference on August 22, 2019, in which defense counsel maintained that, despite Stitt, he still had viable arguments that he wished to pursue. See (ECF No. 66). Petitioner asked to file a supplemental brief, in which he developed three arguments that Maine's burglary statute is broader than generic burglary. See Pet.'s Suppl. Mem. (ECF No. 67). First, he contends that because Maine's statute defines a structure to include a “place designed to provide protection for persons or property against weather or intrusion” and could include, for instance, a gazebo, it goes beyond generic burglary. Pet.'s Suppl. Mem. 3. Second, he argues that Maine's statute is broader than generic burglary because it allows a jury to draw an inference of guilt if it finds a burglary occurred and a defendant was in exclusive possession of property taken in that burglary. Pet.'s Suppl. Mem. 3-4. Finally, Petitioner claims that, because the Maine statute includes attempted burglary, it is broader than generic burglary. Pet.'s Suppl. Mem. 4-5.

         The Government, after noting that Duquette remains binding Circuit precedent, filed a responsive supplemental brief addressing the merits of these newly developed arguments. Gov't's Suppl. Mem. (ECF No. 68). At no time has the Government raised the issue of whether ...


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