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Williams v. United States

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

November 26, 2018

JEROME WILLIAMS, Movant/Defendant,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         This action is before the court on the motion filed by Jerome Williams to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2255.[1] Upon consideration of the motion and the parties' briefs, [2] this court concludes that Williams's motion is due to be denied.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On February 20, 1998, Williams pleaded guilty to one count of bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a)&(d) (Count One); one count of carrying or using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) (Count Two); and, one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count Four).[3] He was sentenced on May 21, 1998, to imprisonment for a term of 300 months (25 years) on Count One, 327 months (27 years and 3 months) on Count Four (to be served concurrently with the sentence on Count One), and 60 months (5 years) on Count Two (to be served consecutively to the sentence on Counts One and Four).[4]

         Generally speaking, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count Four) is punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 120 months, or 10 years. 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2). Here, however, Williams's sentence was enhanced under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), which provides, in pertinent part, that:

In the case of a person who violates section 922(g) of this title and has three previous convictions by any court referred to in section 922(g)(1) of this title for a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both, committed on occasions different from one another, such person shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not less than fifteen years, and, notwithstanding any other provision of law, the court shall not suspend the sentence of, or grant a probationary sentence to, such person with respect to the conviction under section 922(g).

18 U.S.C.A. § 924(e)(1) (emphasis supplied).

         The convictions and sentences this court imposed upon Williams were affirmed by the Eleventh Circuit on direct appeal in 1999.[5] Williams has filed two previous motions to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence - one in 2005 and one in 2010. Both motions were either denied or dismissed by this court.[6] Williams, therefore, would have been unable to file a third § 2255 motion without first receiving permission from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h) (“A second or successive motion must be certified as provided in section 2244 by a panel of the appropriate court of appeals . . . .”); 28 U.S.C. § 2244. The Eleventh Circuit granted him that permission on June 27, 2016, because it found that the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S., 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), constituted “a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h)(2).[7]

         II. DISCUSSION

         At the time of Williams's sentencing, the ACCA defined the term “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.”

Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 2555-56 (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)) (emphasis in Johnson). Subdivision (i) is commonly referred to as the “elements clause, ” and the first part of subdivision (ii) is referred to as the “enumerated offenses clause.” The italicized language in subdivision (ii) is referred to as the “residual clause” of the statute, and it was struck down by the Supreme Court's Johnson decision as being unconstitutionally vague. See Id. at 2557, 2563.[8]

         The enhancement of Williams's federal sentence was based upon his previous convictions for: (1) federal kidnapping in 1977; (2) Kentucky first degree robbery, also in 1977; and, (3) Georgia armed robbery in 1983.[9] He does not challenge the sentencing court's reliance upon the robbery convictions to enhance the sentence, but he asserts that the kidnapping conviction was not a proper enhancer because ...


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