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United States v. Sykes

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 21, 2016

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
Trevon Sykes Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: September 25, 2015

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis

          Before LOKEN, BEAM, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

          SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.

         Trevon Sykes pled guilty to being a felon in possession of numerous firearms in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Finding that Sykes had committed three predicate offenses qualifying as violent felonies under the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), the district court[1] sentenced Sykes to 180 months in prison and a three-year term of supervised release. Sykes appealed his sentence, raising issues related to the nature of his predicate offenses coupled with his age at the time of the commission of these offenses. We affirmed.

         The United States Supreme Court granted Sykes's petition for writ of certiorari, vacated the judgment, and remanded the case for further consideration in light of its decision in Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016). In Mathis, the Court held "when a statute, instead of merely laying out a crime's elements, lists alternative means of fulfilling one (or more)" elements, the sentencing court commits error by "applying the modified categorical approach to determine the means by which [the defendant] committed his prior crimes" in order to determine whether the ACCA enhancement applies. Id. at 2253. After following the Supreme Court's directive, we again affirm Sykes's sentence.

         I.

         On May 23, 2013, Sykes and Charles Sacus arrived at a tattoo parlor in St. Louis, Missouri. Unbeknownst to Sykes and Sacus, the proprietors of the tattoo parlor were undercover agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ("ATF"). As a cover, the agents posed as convicted felons who were buying guns for unlawful use by an outlaw motorcycle gang. While at the tattoo parlor, Sykes handed a Hi-Point .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol to Sacus, which Sacus sold to the undercover agents for $500. Sykes admitted to the undercover agents that he had recently been released from prison, the pistol belonged to him, and he had more guns for sale.

         Over the following weeks, Sykes sold five firearms, two of which were stolen, to the undercover agents. All of the transactions were recorded with audio and video. ATF experts examined the firearms and determined that they functioned as designed and were manufactured outside the state of Missouri.

         A federal grand jury indicted Sykes for being a felon in possession of numerous firearms from May 23, 2013 to June 6, 2013, in violation of 18 U.S.C § 922(g)(1). Sykes entered a plea agreement and pled guilty. The United States Probation Office issued a presentence investigation report ("PSR"), which stated that Sykes had three prior convictions that were crimes of violence and violent felonies. Specifically, certified court records established that Sykes previously was convicted of: (1) two counts of second-degree burglary by knowingly and unlawfully entering a building in St. Louis County in 2010; (2) second-degree burglary by knowingly and unlawfully entering a building and felony stealing in St. Louis County in 2010; (3) three counts of possession of a controlled substance in St. Louis County in 2010; and (4) first-degree burglary in St. Louis City in 2010. Each of these prior convictions is a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year. As a result of Sykes having three violent felony convictions and one serious drug offense, the PSR classified him as an Armed Career Criminal subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 months pursuant to the ACCA.

         Sykes objected to his classification as an Armed Career Criminal, asserting that because the second-degree burglaries were of unoccupied commercial buildings and were nonviolent, and in view of his youth at the time of the commission of the burglaries, the offenses should not count as predicate convictions under the ACCA. The district court rejected these arguments, noting that Sykes was certified as an adult for each of his prior convictions and the two offenses to which Sykes objected qualified as violent felonies under Eighth Circuit law.

         II.

         On appeal, Sykes first argues that his two prior convictions for second-degree burglary do not qualify as violent felonies for the purposes of § 924(e) because the Missouri second-degree burglary statute is overbroad and Sykes burgled unoccupied commercial buildings. Second, Sykes asserts that he incurred the prior convictions when he was under the age of 18, and therefore using them to enhance his sentence to a mandatary minimum ...


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