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United States v. Libby

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

January 26, 2018

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
William Ike Libby, Jr. Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: October 19, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis

          Before WOLLMAN and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges, and GOLDBERG, [1] Judge.

          GOLDBERG, JUDGE.

         Defendant William Ike Libby, Jr. pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), 924(e). Previously, Libby had been convicted of three separate offenses: first degree aggravated robbery and second degree assault in October 1997, and second degree drug sale in January 2010. The district court[2] considered each of Libby's three previous convictions to be "violent felonies" or "serious drug offenses" and therefore found Libby subject to the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). As a result, the district court sentenced Libby to the fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence provided in 18 U.S.C § 924(e)(1).

         On appeal, Libby does not contest that two of his prior convictions constitute predicate offenses for the purposes of the ACCA. Rather, his appeal is limited to challenging the imposition of a fifteen year sentence based on the characterization of his October 1997 conviction for first degree aggravated robbery, Minn. Stat. § 609.245, subd. 1, as a "violent felony." Because we hold that the lesser included offense of simple robbery in Minnesota is indeed a "violent felony, " we affirm the ruling of the district court and uphold its sentence under the ACCA.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         We review de novo whether a prior conviction is a predicate offense felony for the purposes of the ACCA, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). United States v. Shockley, 816 F.3d 1058, 1062 (8th Cir. 2016) (citation omitted).

         B. The ACCA Framework

         The ACCA dictates that if a defendant has "three previous convictions . . . for a violent felony or a serious drug offense, " that individual shall be sentenced to no less than fifteen years in prison. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). The statute defines "violent felony" as "any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year . . . that [] has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another . . . ." 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(i). "Physical force 'means violent force-that is, force capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person.'" United States v. Schaffer, 818 F.3d 796, 798 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Johnson v. United States, 559 U.S. 133, 140, 130 S.Ct. 1265, 176 L.Ed.2d 1 (2010)). Thus, in order to uphold the district court's classification of Libby's conviction as a predicate felony, we must find that Minn. Stat. § 609.245, subd. 1 contains as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of force capable of causing pain or injury to another.

         When assessing whether a state statute qualifies as a "violent felony" for the purposes of the ACCA, we employ the categorical approach, looking only to the elements of the statute in question. See Jones v. United States, 870 F.3d 750, 752- 753 (8th Cir. 2017) (citations omitted). A defendant's real world conduct is of no relevance to our review and is not to be considered. See id. (citing Mathis v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 2243, 2251, 195 L.Ed.2d 604 (2016) ("How a given defendant actually perpetrated the crime-what we have referred to as the 'underlying brute facts or means' of commission-makes no difference . . . .") (citation omitted)).

         Where a statute is indivisible-that is, it "sets out a single . . . set of elements to define a single crime"-we need not look beyond the statute of conviction. Mathis, 136 S.Ct. at 2248. If the elements of Libby's statute of conviction, Minn. Stat. § 609.245, subd. 1, criminalize conduct that does not require the use of violent force, then it cannot be considered a predicate offense for the purposes of the ACCA. See Jones, 870 F.3d at 753.

         However, statutes deemed divisible are treated differently. When a statute "list[s] elements in the alternative, and thereby define[s] multiple crimes, " it is divisible. Mathis, 136 S.Ct. at 2249. When we are faced with a divisible statute, we are permitted a constrained inspection of "a limited class of documents . . . to determine what crime, with what elements, a defendant was convicted of." Id. (citing Shepard v. United States, 544 U.S. 13, 26, 125 S.Ct. 1254, 161 L.Ed.2d 205 (2005)). This ...


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