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Oden v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

November 15, 2017

CHRISTOPHER EARL ODEN, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Procedural History

         On June 14, 2016, Christopher Earl Oden filed with a counseled motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2255. (Doc. 1). He asks this court to vacate the sentence imposed upon him on September 25, 2012, in case 2:12-CR-201-JHH-RRA[1]. (Crim. Doc. 12). Mr. Oden was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). (Id.). At sentencing, the court applied the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA")[2] enhancement based upon its finding that Mr. Oden had three or more prior convictions that qualified as "violent felonies" under the ACCA. Without that enhancement, the statutory maximum sentence authorized by law (absent other statutory provisions, none of which are at issue in this case) was 120 months.

         At the parties' joint request (Doc. 5), this Court stayed this action on July 19, 2016, pending a decision by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in either of the following cases: United States v. Heard, No. 15-10612, or United States v. Gundy, No. 14-13113. The Eleventh Circuit decided United States v. Gundy, 842 F.3d 1156 (11th Cir. 2017) in a published opinion issued on February 22, 2017. On February 23, 2017, the Government notified the Court of the Gundy decision. (Doc. 7). The Court lifted the stay and ordered Mr. Oden to show cause why his petition should not be dismissed or denied in light of that decision. (Doc. 8). Mr. Oden replied on March 13, 2017. (Doc. 9). However, on June 16, 2017, the parties advised the Court that a petition for writ of certiorari as to the Gundy decision was pending before the United States Supreme Court and asked this Court to further stay this action pending a decision by the Supreme Court. (See Docs. 11 and 13). The Court agreed and accordingly stayed this action again. (Doc. 14). On October 4, 2017, the Government advised this Court that the Gundy petition had been denied. (Doc. 15). On November 6, 2017, the Court ordered the parties to show cause why the stay should not be lifted and to file any remaining arguments. (Doc. 16). The parties have now done so. (Docs. 17 and 18). The matter is therefore ripe for submission.

         II. Issue Presented

         The premise for Mr. Oden's motion is that application of the ACCA enhancement to him was error in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), as made retroactively applicable by Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016). (Doc. 1 at 3)("In light of Johnson v. United States [...] and Welch v. United States [...], Mr. Oden is entitled to be resentenced without the ACCA enhancement because his Alabama and Georgia burglary convictions no longer qualify as violent felonies.").

         III. The Underlying Criminal Case[3]

         2. The Underlying Criminal Case.

         In May 2012, Mr. Oden was charged with one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). (Crim. Doc. 1).

a. He pleaded guilty to the charge in June 2012. (Crim. Doc. 9.)
b. The Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) recommended that Mr. Oden's sentence be enhanced under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). (PSR, ¶ 17). The ACCA provides for an increased sentence for a defendant who is convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and has three prior violent felony or serious drug offense convictions. The PSR counted the following convictions as violent felonies for application of the ACCA:
i. 2005 Alabama burglary, third degree, id. ¶¶ 19, 31;
ii. 2007 Georgia burglary (four counts), id. at ¶¶ 19, 32.
c. Without the ACCA enhancement, the maximum sentence Mr. Oden could have received was 10 years (120 months). See 18 U.S.C. ยง 924(a)(2). However, as an armed career criminal, he faced a mandatory minimum 15-year (180-month) sentence and a ...

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