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Stoner v. United States

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

June 12, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on movant Elton Lloyd Stoner'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 (“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 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 below, the Court will grant movant's motion.

         I. Background

         On October 25, 2007, a Grand Jury in the Eastern District of Missouri, Southeastern Division, returned a one-count indictment against movant Elton Lloyd Stoner. United States v. Stoner, Case No. 1:07-CR-170 CAS. The Indictment charged that on or about May 27, 2007, movant possessed a firearm that affected interstate commerce after he had been convicted of felony offenses, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The Indictment also notified movant that he was eligible for sentencing under the ACCA as an Armed Career Criminal.

         On March 10, 2008, movant entered a plea of guilty to the Indictment.

         A presentence investigation report (“PSR”) was prepared after movant's plea. The PSR stated that movant met the Career Offender provisions of the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“U.S.S.G.”) § 4B1.1 because he had three prior violent felony convictions. The PSR contained conviction information for five offenses prosecuted under Minnesota law that could have qualified him for sentencing under the ACCA: (1) felony theft of a motor vehicle; (2) third-degree burglary; (3) felony theft of a motor vehicle; (4) third-degree assault; and (5) fourth-degree assault. The PSR does not, however, identify which of these convictions were used to establish movant as a Career Offender.

         On June 9, 2008, the Court sentenced movant to 180 months imprisonment, and a three-year period of supervised release. Movant did not appeal.

         Movant filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on June 30, 2009. He argued that trial counsel was ineffective for not investigating an insanity defense. The Court dismissed the motion as without factual basis and denied a certificate of appealability. Stoner v. United States, No. 1:09-CV-84 CAS (E.D. Mo. Mem. and Order of November 2, 2011). 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. Stoner v. United States, No. 16-1177 (8th Cir. June 28, 2016). Movant filed the instant § 2255 motion, and later amended it to rely on a recent Eighth Circuit decision in United States v. McArthur, 836 F.3d 931 (2016) (holding defendant's prior Minnesota burglary convictions were not necessarily violent felonies under the ACCA, thus modified categorical approach was proper) (“McArthur I”).[1]

         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 burden of proof).

         III. Discussion

         In his amended motion, movant asserts that his two 2002 Minnesota convictions for theft of a motor vehicle and his 2002 Minnesota conviction for third-degree burglary no longer qualify as predicate offenses now that Johnson has declared the ACCA's residual clause unconstitutional. The government responds 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. Although the government does not challenge the assertion that the convictions for motor vehicle theft are no longer violent felonies, the government asserts that movant's third-degree burglary conviction was classified as a violent felony under the enumerated clause of the ACCA, not the residual clause. Movant's conviction for third-degree burglary under Minnesota law, and whether it can qualify as a predicate offense after Johnson, is the only issue in this § 2255 motion.

         The government asserts that movant's claims are not cognizable in a successive § 2255 habeas motion, as his motion fails to meet § 2255(h)(2)'s requirement that a successive motion be based on a new rule of constitutional law. The government argues that movant relies on the statutory interpretation principles of M ...

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