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United States v. Williams

November 13, 2006

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
ANDRE WILLIAMS, ALSO KNOWN AS "ANDRE A. WILLIAMS," "ANDRE WILLIAM," "JUVY WILLIAMS" AND "DRE," DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Gleeson, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Andre Williams has been charged with two federal firearms crimes. Count One charges him with being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g); Count Two charges him with possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(k). He has moved to strike language from Count One that would subject him to a fifteen-year mandatory minimum prison term pursuant to the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), and to the corresponding enhancement in U.S.S.G. § 4B1.4. On October 30, 2006, I informed the parties of my ruling that neither the statutory minimum sentence nor the guidelines enhancement is applicable to Williams. This memorandum sets forth the reasons for that decision.

BACKGROUND

A. The Arrest and Charges

New York City police officers arrested Williams on May 6, 2006 in Brooklyn for possession of a firearm. As mentioned above, Williams was charged federally with being a felon in possession of a firearm, and that charge includes the additional allegation that he had previously been convicted of three felonies that render him eligible for the enhancement set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) and U.S.S.G. 4B1.4.*fn1 Under § 924(e), a defendant convicted of being a felon in possession faces a mandatory minimum sentence of fifteen years in prison if he "has three previous convictions . . . for a violent felony or a serious drug offense." The statute's definition of a "serious drug offense" includes drug offenses under state law "for which a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years or more is prescribed by law." § 924(e)(2)(A)(ii).

B. The Previous Convictions

On July 3, 1990, Williams was convicted in New York Supreme Court of attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance, which is defined as a "C" felony. N.Y. Penal Law § 110 (McKinney 1965); N.Y. Penal Law § 220.39(01) (McKinney 1973). At the time of conviction, a C felony drug conviction in New York carried a maximum term of imprisonment of fifteen years. See N.Y. Penal Law § 70.00(2)(c) (McKinney 1965). Williams was sentenced to a six-month term of imprisonment and five years of probation for this conviction.

On August 2, 1993, Williams was convicted in New York Supreme Court of two additional felonies: assault in the first degree, committed on November 8, 1991; and robbery in the first degree, committed on March 7, 1993. He received concurrent sentences of six to twelve years in prison on each of those convictions.

C. The Rockefeller Drug Law Reform Act and Williams's Motion

In 2004, New York passed the Rockefeller Drug Law Reform Act, lowering sentences for certain drug offenses, including C felony drug offenses. See N.Y. Penal Law § 70.70 (McKinney 2004); 2004 N.Y. Laws Ch. 738 (effective January 13, 2005) (hereinafter "Reform Act"). The Reform Act reduced the maximum term of imprisonment for a C felony drug offense from fifteen years to five and one-half years. See § 70.70(2)(a)(ii). The sentences related to non-drug C felonies were not affected by the legislation.

With limited exceptions for A-I and A-II felons, the ameliorative effects of the Reform Act are prospective only. The reduced maximum sentences do not apply to defendants who committed their crimes prior to the effective date of the statute, January 13, 2005. See People v. Utsey, 2006 WL 2689695, *2 (N.Y. 2006) (Kaye, J.).*fn2

Williams argues that because C drug felonies in New York now carry a maximum sentence of five and one-half years, they no longer meet the definition of a "serious drug offense" pursuant to § 924(e)(2)(A)(ii), and thus he should not be subject to that statute's sentencing enhancement provisions.*fn3 The government asserts that the enhancement should apply because New York law prescribes a maximum sentence of greater than ten years where, as here, a C drug felony was committed prior to January 13, 2005.

DISCUSSION

A. The Procedural ...


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