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Slaughter v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 31, 2017

DONALD SLAUGHTER, Movant,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CHARLES A. SHAW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on movant Donald Slaughter's amended motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, based on Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). Johnson held that the Armed Career Criminal Act's[1] (“ACCA”) residual clause is unconstitutional. The government opposes the motion, arguing that Johnson does not affect movant's sentence and he remains an armed career criminal because his ACCA predicate offenses were enumerated clause convictions, not residual clause violent felonies. The government also argues that movant's motion is not cognizable in a successive habeas action because it actually seeks relief based on statutory interpretation principles set forth in Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), and does not rely on a new rule of constitutional law, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h)(2). For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant movant's motion.

         I. Background

         On October 7, 2009, movant was indicted and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). See United States v. Slaughter, No. 4:09-CR-643 CAS (E.D. Mo.) (Doc. 1).

         Movant pleaded guilty on December 29, 2009. (Docs. 16, 17, No. 4:09-CR-643.) A presentence investigation report (“PSR”) was prepared after the guilty verdict. (Doc. 38, No. 4:09-CR-643.) The PSR stated that movant met the Armed Career Criminal provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) because he “has prior crime of violence felony convictions including Burglary First Degree under Docket No. 22991-04108 and Burglary Second Degree under Docket Nos. 2100R-00224, 2100R-00219, 2101R-002059, and 2012R-00750[.]” (Id. at 5.)

         On July 27, 2010, the Court sentenced movant to 180 months, and a three-year period of supervised release. Movant appealed, arguing that the Court erred in refusing to permit him to withdraw his guilty plea, but the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. United States v. Slaughter, 407 F. App'x 83 (8th Cir. 2011).

         Movant filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on August 8, 2014. The Court dismissed the motion as time barred and denied a certificate of appealability. Slaughter v. United States, No. 4:14-CV-1389 CAS (E.D. Mo.) (Mem. and Order of Sept. 23, 2014). Movant did not appeal the dismissal.

         After the Supreme Court decided Johnson, movant filed a petition for authorization to file a successive motion to vacate, set aside or correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals granted. Slaughter v. United States, No. 15-3678 (8th Cir. June 7, 2016). The instant case was then filed.

         II. Legal Standard

         A district court may vacate, set aside, or correct a federal sentence if “the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Movant bears the burden to show he is entitled to relief. Day v. United States, 428 F.2d 1193, 1195 (8th Cir. 1970). In a case involving an ACCA conviction such as this one, “the movant carries the burden of showing that the Government did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his conviction fell under the ACCA.” Hardman v. United States, 149 F.Supp.3d 1144, 1148 (W.D. Mo. 2016); see also Hardman v. United States, 191 F.Supp.3d 989, 992-93 (W.D. Mo. 2016) (denying government's motion for reconsideration on the issue of the burden of proof).

         III. Discussion

         In the amended motion, movant asserts that none of his Missouri second-degree burglary convictions qualify as predicate offenses now that Johnson has declared the ACCA's residual clause unconstitutional. In his reply memorandum, movant refines his argument to be that his Missouri burglary convictions for burglary of an inhabitable structure no longer qualify as crimes of violence. See Reply at 2, 5, 8-9. The government opposes the motion, responding that despite Johnson, movant is still subject to the armed career criminal enhancement because his status does not rest on the ACCA's residual clause. The government asserts that movant's burglary convictions were classified as violent felonies under the enumerated clause of the ACCA, not the residual clause.

         The government also asserts that movant's claims are not cognizable in a successive § 2255 habeas action, as his motion fails to meet 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h)(2)'s requirement that a successive motion be based on a new rule of constitutional law. The government argues that movant “attacks his second degree burglary convictions based on Missouri's definition of ‘inhabitable structure'” which “demonstrates reliance on the statutory interpretation principles espoused in Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), not the constitutional holding in Johnson.” Gov't Response at 6.

         Movant replies that his motion meets the requirements of § 2255(h)(2) as it is based on Johnson's new rule of constitutional law that is retroactive to cases on collateral review, Welch v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), and which was previously unavailable to him. Movant states that because the definition of inhabitable structure used in Missouri's burglary statute is broader than generic burglary as defined in Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575 (1990), see United States v. Bess, 655 F. App'x 518, 519 (8th Cir. 2016) (unpublished per curiam), his burglary conviction does not qualify as an ACCA enumerated predicate offense, but at the time of sentencing it qualified under the ACCA's residual clause based on Eighth Circuit precedent such as United States v. Hascall, 76 F.3d 902, 906 (8th Cir. 1996), and United States v. Bell, 445 F.3d 1086, 1090 (8th Cir. 2006). Movant correctly observes that at sentencing, the Court did not specify the basis on which it found the burglary convictions to be ACCA violent felonies.

         A. The Armed Career Criminal Act

         Movant's claim for relief relies on the interaction of recent Supreme Court cases interpreting the ACCA. Ordinarily, the crime of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) is subject to a maximum punishment of fifteen years. 18 U.S.C. § 924(a). The ACCA enhances the sentence and requires a fifteen-year minimum sentence if a person who violates § 922(g) has three previous convictions for a “violent felony.” The statute defines violent felony as any felony that: “(i) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another; or (ii) 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) (emphasis added). The italicized language, commonly known as the “residual clause, ” is the portion of the statute invalidated by Johnson, see 135 S.Ct. at 2556-57. The remaining clauses, § 924(e)(2)(B)(i) (the “elements clause”), and the first clause of § 924(e)(2)(b)(ii) (the “enumerated offenses clause”), are still effective. Id. at 2563. Subsequently, the Supreme Court held that Johnson announced a new substantive rule that applies retroactively to cases on collateral review. Welch, 136 S.Ct. at 1268.

         B. Movant Meets the Requirements of 28 U.S.C. ยงยง ...


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