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Jackson v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 29, 2017


          Barry D. Leiwant FEDERAL DEFENDERS OF NEW YORK Attorney for Movant

          Lara Pomerantz Assistant United States Attorney PREET BHARARA UNITED STATES ATTORNEY


          Lewis A. Kaplan, District Judge.

         On July 6, 2000, Patrick Jackson was convicted by a jury of one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and one count of being a felon in possession of ammunition, each in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). He was sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act (the “ACCA”) principally to concurrent terms of imprisonment of 235 months and concurrent terms of supervised release of five years. This matter now is before the Court on Jackson's motion to vacate his sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States.[1]


         The Original Sentencing

         The Guidelines

         In 1984, Congress enacted the Sentencing Reform Act (the “Act”) “to enhance the ability of the criminal justice system to combat crime through an effective, fair sentencing system”-one that is honest, reasonably uniform, and proportional.[2] To that end, Congress provided for the development of guidelines by the United States Sentencing Commission (the “Commission”), an independent agency in the judicial branch.[3] The Act “direct[ed] the Commission to create categories of offense behavior and offender characteristics” and “to prescribe guideline ranges that specify an appropriate sentence for each class of convicted persons determined by coordinating the offense behavior categories with the offender characteristics categories.”[4] The guidelines-the Unit ed States Sentencing Guidelines Manual (the “Guidelines”)-took effect November 1, 1987 and have been amended periodically since then.[5]

         In determining the appropriate sentence to impose upon Jackson, the Court was required, among other things, to calculate the applicable sentencing range under the Guidelines.[6]According to the presentence report, Jackson had a base offense level of 24 and a criminal history category of VI[7] which yielded a Guidelines range of 100 to 125 months' imprisonment.[8] A conviction under Section 922(g)(1), however, ordinarily is punishable by a maximum of ten years' imprisonment (and three years of supervised release).[9] In ordinary circumstances then, Jackson's sentence on each count would have been capped at 120 months. But in Jackson's case, there were other factors at play.

         The ACCA Enhancement

         Under the ACCA, a defendant who “violates Section 922(g) and has three previous convictions . . . for a violent felony” is subject to a mandatory minimum of fifteen years' imprisonment and a maximum of life, [10] followed by up to five years of supervised release.[11] The ACCA defines “violent felony” as

“any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year . . . 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.”[12]

         The italicized portion of this definition has come to be known as the ACCA's residual clause.[13]

         At sentencing, the government requested an enhanced sentence for Jackson under the ACCA on the grounds that he had been convicted previously of three felonies, including a 1986 conviction for the Florida crime of escape.[14] The pivotal question thus raised was whether escape constituted a violent felony.[15] Relying on the residual clause, the Court held that it did.[16] Accordingly, it adopted the presentence report and the Guidelines range calculated therein.[17]

         The Sentence

         The ACCA enhancement increased the statutory penalty for each of Jackson's two counts of conviction from a maximum of ten years to a mandatory minimum of fifteen years' imprisonment, and from a maximum of three years to a maximum of five years of supervised release. Moreover, Section 4B1.4 of the Guidelines, the “Armed Career Criminal” provision, increased Jackson's Guidelines range from 100 to 125 months' imprisonment to 235 to 240 months' imprisonment on the basis that Jackson was “subject to an enhanced sentence under the provisions of [Section 924(e)].”[18]

         At the time of Jackson's sentencing, the Guidelines were mandatory-the Court was required to “impose a sentence . . . within the [Guidelines] range, ” unless it found that the circumstances warranted a departure.[19] The Guidelines permitted departures from the prescribed sentencing range only where the judge found that “there exist[ed] an aggravating or mitigating circumstance of a kind, or to a degree, not adequately taken into consideration by the Sentencing Commission in formulating the guidelines that should result in a sentence different from that described.”[20] In practice, departures “[we]re unavailable in most [cases]”-including in Jackson's.[21]Accordingly, on January 22, 2001, the Court sentenced Jackson principally to 235 months' imprisonment on each of the two counts, the terms to run concurrently, and five years of supervised release on each count, those terms also to run concurrently.[22]

         Jackson appealed from the judgment, arguing in part that this Court's determination that he was an armed career criminal-by virtue of the escape and other convictions-had been erroneous. The Second Circuit, however, rejected that argument and affirmed the conviction.[23]Various collateral attacks were unsuccessful.

         Jackson's projected release date is December 10, 2017.

         Subsequent Developments and the Present Application

         In 2005, the Supreme Court decided United States v. Booker[24] in which it struck down, under the Sixth Amendment, two provisions of the Sentencing Reform Act that had the effect of making the Guidelines mandatory for sentencing judges. As a result, the Guidelines became advisory. Although the Supreme Court held that Booker applied to all cases on direct review at the time, it was not given retroactive effect for cases on collateral review. In other words, defendants like Jackson-whose sentences were imposed in violation of the Sixth Amendment, as the Supreme Court subsequently made clear, but whose direct appeals had been completed before Booker-were not entitled to have their sentences vacated or corrected on the basis of Booker.

         Ten years later, the Supreme Court decided Johnson in which it struck down the ACCA's residual clause as unconstitutionally vague.[25] After Johnson, Jackson moved the Second Circuit for an order authorizing this Court to consider a second or successive Section 2255 motion on the ground that he was sentenced as an armed career criminal based on the now unconstitutional residual clause of the ACCA. The Second Circuit granted Jackson's motion on December 28, 2015, and, on January 12, 2016, Jackson moved to vacate his sentence pursuant to Section 2255.[26] While Jackson's motion was pending, the Supreme Court decided Welch v. United States[27] in which it held that Johnson announced a new substantive rule that applies retroactively on collateral review. That is to say, Jackson is entitled to the benefit of Johnson in his present application.


         Legal Standard

         Relief under Section 2255 is appropriate if the movant can show, among other things, that his “sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, ” or “that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law.”[28] Jackson has shown both.

         Timeliness of the Present Application

         Typically, a movant must bring a Section 2255 motion within one year of the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final.[29] Where the basis for relief is a newly recognized right, however, a movant has one year from “the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court” in which to file.[30] Jackson's motion falls ...

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