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Macarthur v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maine

October 16, 2019

LAUREN MACARTHUR, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent

          ORDER ON MOTION TO AMEND AND RECOMMENDED DECISION ON 28 U.S.C. § 2255 MOTION

          JOHN C. NIVISON U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         In this action, Petitioner Lauren MacArthur moves, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence. (Placeholder Motion, ECF No. 99; Motion, ECF No. 112; First Amended Motion, ECF No. 119; Second Amended Motion, ECF No. 136-1.) Following a guilty plea, Petitioner was convicted of possession of a firearm by a felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) and 924(e), and possession of stolen firearms in violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(j); the Court sentenced Petitioner to 216 months imprisonment on Count 1 and 120 months on Count 2 to be served concurrently. (Judgment, ECF No. 78 at 1 - 2.) The First Circuit affirmed the sentence. United States v. MacArthur, 805 F.3d 385 (1st Cir. 2015).

         After several amendments to his section 2255 motion, Petitioner contends he should not have been sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), and thus his 216-month sentence exceeds the statutory maximum of ten years pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). (Motion at 4 - 15; Second Amended Motion at 12 - 22.) The Government argues the motion should be denied under controlling First Circuit and Supreme Court authority. (Response at 4 - 6, ECF No. 138.)

         I grant Petitioner's pending motion to amend. (Second Motion to Amend, ECF No. 136). Following a review of the record and after consideration of Petitioner's original and amended motion as well as the Government's request for dismissal, I recommend the Court grant the Government's request and dismiss Petitioner's motion.

         Procedural History and Legal Background

         A. Charges and Plea

         In May 2012, Petitioner was indicted on one count of knowingly possessing a firearm after having been convicted of crimes punishable by imprisonment for a term of more than one year, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) and 924(e); Petitioner was also indicted on one count of knowingly possessing a stolen firearm that had previously traveled in interstate or foreign commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(j). (Indictment, ECF No. 4.) Among the prior convictions listed in the indictment were numerous Maine state court Class B felony convictions for burglary. (Id.)

         In November 2012, Petitioner pled guilty to both counts. (ECF No. 38.) At the change of plea hearing, before accepting Petitioner's guilty plea, the Court confirmed that Petitioner understood that the guilty plea on Count 1 “requires [the Court] to place you in jail for not less than 15 years, and you could be in jail for the rest of your life.” (Change of Plea Hearing Transcript at 7, ECF No. 87.) The Court also confirmed that Petitioner understood the penalties that might be imposed, (id. at 5-6), and confirmed that Petitioner understood that the indictment “sets forth 15 separate felonies that it alleges that you have been convicted of.” (Id. at 6.)

         B. Legal Background Regarding Enhancements for Prior Convictions

         Under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), a person who has been convicted of a felony who then possesses a firearm faces a fine and imprisonment of “not more than 10 years.” Id. § 924(a)(2). However, under the ACCA, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), a felon in possession of firearm who “has three previous convictions . . . for a violent felony or a serious drug offense . . . shall be . . . imprisoned not less than fifteen years . . . .” The term “violent felony” is defined as a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year that: (1) “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another, ” id. § 924(e)(2)(B)(i); or (2) “is burglary, arson, or extortion, [or] involves use of explosives, ” id. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii); or (3) “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” Id. The first part of the definition is known as the “force clause, ” the second part of the definition is known as the “enumerated offenses clause, ” and the third part of the definition is known as the “residual clause.” See United States v. Frates, 896 F.3d 93, 96 (1st Cir. 2018).

         The United States Sentencing Guidelines are used to “guide the exercise of a court's discretion in choosing an appropriate sentence within the statutory range.” Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886, 892 (2017). The guidelines contain many provisions that enhance a defendant's recommended sentence when they have one or more prior convictions that qualify as a “crime of violence” or a “controlled substance offense.” See U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2. For example, the guideline for firearms offenses, U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1, accounts for prior convictions in setting a defendant's base offense level, and the Career Offender guideline, U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1, might enhance a defendant's criminal history category if there are two such qualifying prior convictions. The guideline terms “crime of violence” and “controlled substance offense” have been defined in a similar but not identical manner to the ACCA terms. See Frates, 896 F.3d at 96 (explaining that the definition of “crime of violence” mirrored the ACCA until Amend. 798, which eliminated the guideline residual clause and changed the guideline enumerated offenses in 2016). Furthermore, there is an Armed Career Criminal guideline, U.S.S.G. § 4B1.4, which could enhance both a defendant's base offense level and criminal history category if the defendant is a statutory Armed Career Criminal under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e).

         “The Supreme Court has held that a sentencing court should use a categorical or modified categorical approach when considering sentencing enhancements based on prior offenses.” United States v. Mohamed, 920 F.3d 94, 101 (1st Cir. 2019) (citing Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243, 2249 (2016); Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, 588 (1990). “In short, [courts] look to the statutory definition of the offense in question, as opposed to the particular facts underlying the conviction.” United States v. Davila-Felix, 667 F.3d 47, 56 (1st Cir. 2011) (internal quotations omitted). A state statute of conviction can only serve as a predicate offense “if the statute's elements are the same as, or narrower than” the federal elements. See Descamps v. United States, 570 U.S. 254, 257 (2013).

         When a state statute “sets out a single (or ‘indivisible') set of elements” the straightforward categorical approach applies, but when a state statute has “a more complicated (sometimes called ‘divisible') structure . . . list[ing] elements in the alternative, and thereby defin[ing] multiple crimes” courts use the modified categorical approach. Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243, 2248 - 49 (2016). Under the modified categorical approach, “a sentencing court looks to a limited class of documents (for example, the indictment, jury instructions, or plea agreement and colloquy) to determine what crime, with what elements, a defendant was convicted of.” Id. at 2249 (citing Shepard v. United States, 544 U.S. 13, 26 (2005)). The modified categorical approach, however, “gives a sentencing court no special warrant to explore the facts of an offense, rather than to determine the crime's elements and compare them with the generic definition.” Id. at 2251.

         C. Sentencing

         In March 2014, the Court sentenced Petitioner to 216 months of imprisonment on Count 1 and 120 months of imprisonment on Count 2, to be served concurrently; the Court also sentenced Petitioner to five years of supervised release on Count 1 and three years of supervised release on Count 2, to be served concurrently. (Judgment, ECF No. 78.) During the sentencing proceedings, Petitioner did not dispute that his burglary convictions qualified as prior convictions under the ACCA, after having the opportunity to review the presentence investigation report in which the Probation Office frequently cited the statutory range of imprisonment pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), discussed the burglary convictions individually, and concluded that “[t]he defendant is an armed career criminal.” (Presentence Investigation Report ¶¶ 1, 19, 32, 33, 38, 47, 68.) Petitioner agreed that the Probation Office's report was accurate. (Sentencing Transcript at 7 - 8, ECF No. 86.)

         When calculating Petitioner's offense level and criminal history score for purposes of his guideline sentence, the Probation Office found that “the defendant has at least three prior convictions for a violent felony or serious drug offense” and therefore concluded that “the defendant is subject to the provisions of the armed career criminal enhancements at USSG § 4B1.4.” (PSR ¶ 19.) However, because the calculation of Petitioner's offense level and criminal history score based on the other guidelines provisions was ...


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