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United States v. Seams

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

July 12, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
TYRONNE SEAMS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          WILLIAM E. SMITH, Chief Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendant Tyronne Seams's Motion to Vacate or Correct Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (18 U.S.C. § 924(c)) (“Motion to Vacate”).[1] For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Vacate is DENIED.

         I. Background

         On April 8, 2014, a grand jury indicted Defendant Seams. The three-count Indictment charged Defendant and a co-defendant with conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery; Hobbs Act robbery; and the use and discharge of firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence.[2] Defendant pleaded guilty to all three counts on March 24, 2015.[3] On June 12, 2015, the Court sentenced Defendant to 161 months: 41 months as to Counts I and II, to run concurrently with each other; and 120 months as to Count III, to run consecutive to Counts I and II.[4] The Court sentenced Defendant to the 120-month consecutive term based on his guilty plea to Count III of the Indictment for using, carrying, brandishing, and discharging two firearms in connection with a crime of violence (namely, Hobbs Act robbery and/or conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery).[5]

         On June 24, 2016, Defendant filed the instant Motion to Vacate, arguing that, in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States (Johnson II), 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), he was unlawfully sentenced under the residual clause of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B), which is substantially similar to the Armed Career Criminal Act's (“ACCA”) residual clause.[6] ACCA's residual clause was struck down as unconstitutionally vague in Johnson II. In Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257, 1268 (2016), the Supreme Court held that Johnson II announced a substantive rule and therefore had retroactive effect.

         II. Analysis

         A. 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) and Hobbs Act Robbery

         The relevant part of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) provides that:

any person who, during and in relation to any crime of violence . . . for which the person may be prosecuted in a court of the United States, uses or carries a firearm, or who, in furtherance of any such crime, possesses a firearm, shall, in addition to the punishment provided for such crime of violence . . . [be sentenced to a term of imprisonment].[7]

         Under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3), “crime of violence” is defined as:

[A]n offense that is a felony and-
(A) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or
(B) that by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.[8]

         The Court refers to § 924(c)(3)(A) as the “force clause” and § 924(c)(3)(B) as the “residual clause.”[9]

         The “crime of violence” for which Defendant was indicted and convicted is Hobbs Act robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951. Section 1951(a) penalizes any person who “in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce . . . by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section.”[10] Section 1951(b) defines robbery, in pertinent part, as “the unlawful taking or obtaining of personal property from the person or in the presence of another, against his will, by means of actual or threatened force, or violence, or fear of injury, immediate or future, to his person or property.”[11]

         Defendant contends that the Supreme Court's holding in Johnson II, that ACCA's residual clause is unconstitutionally vague, should be extended to § 924(c)(3)'s residual clause because they are “substantially similar.”[12] Defendant further argues that, in the absence of § 924(c)(3)'s residual clause, Hobbs Act robbery and conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery do not qualify as crimes of violence under § 924(c)(3)'s force clause.[13] The Government, in rejoinder, argues that (1) Hobbs Act robbery squarely rests within the force clause of 924(c); (2) even if Hobbs ...


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