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Hatfield v. United States

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

March 22, 2019

THERRAL HATFIELD, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          WALLACE CAPEL, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the court is Therral Hatfield's motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence. Doc. No. 1.[1] Hatfield contends that his conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) is unlawful under the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). However, because the decision in Johnson did not affect Hatfield's conviction under § 924(c), Hatfield is entitled to no relief.

         I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 17, 2010, a jury found Hatfield guilty of two counts of interstate kidnapping, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1) (Counts 1 and 2), and one count of using a firearm during a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) (Count 3). The kidnapping offense charged in Count 1 served as the predicate “crime of violence” for Hatfield's § 924(c) conviction under Count 3.

         After a sentencing hearing on June 29, 2011, the district court sentenced Hatfield to 300 months' imprisonment, consisting of concurrent terms of 300 months on Counts 1 and 2 and a consecutive term of 84 months on Count 3.

         Hatfield appealed, and on March 16, 2012, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed his convictions and sentence. See United States v. Hatfield, 466 Fed.Appx. 775 (11th Cir. 2012). Hatfield filed no petition for certiorari in the United States Supreme Court.

         In May 15, 2013, Hatfield filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. See Hatfield v. United States, Civil Action No. 2:13cv324-WKW. In October 2015, this court denied Hatfield relief on the claims in his § 2255 motion.

         In June 2015, the United States Supreme Court held that the residual clause of the “violent felony” definition in the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), is unconstitutionally vague. Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015).[2] In Johnson, the Court reasoned: “[T]he indeterminacy of the wide-ranging inquiry required by the residual clause both denies fair notice to defendants and invites arbitrary enforcement by judges. Increasing a defendant's sentence under the clause denies due process of law.” Id. at 2557. However, the Court “d[id] not call into question application of the [ACCA] to . . . the remainder of the Act's definition of a violent felony.” Id. at 2563 (alterations added). Subsequently, in Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016), the Supreme Court held that the Johnson decision announced a new substantive rule of constitutional law that applies retroactively to cases on collateral review.

         Title 18 § 924(c) provides in part that a defendant who uses or carries a firearm “during and in relation to any crime of violence or drug trafficking crime, ” or possesses a firearm in furtherance of such crimes, shall, in addition to the punishment provided for such crime of violence or drug trafficking crime, be sentenced to a separate and consecutive term of imprisonment of “not less than 7 years.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i). For purposes of § 924(c), the term “crime of violence” means an 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.

18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3). Subsection (A) of § 924(c)(3) is referred to as the “use-of-force clause, ” and subsection (B) is referred to as the § 924(c)(3)(B) “residual clause.” See In re Saint Fleur, 824 F.3d 1337, 1339 (11th Cir. 2016).

         In October 2016, Hatfield filed an application with the Eleventh Circuit seeking leave to file a second or successive § 2255 motion based on the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson. See Court of Appeals No. 16-16567. In particular, Hatfield argued that his § 924(c) conviction under Count 3 of the indictment was unlawful because the § 924(c)(3)(B) residual clause is materially indistinguishable from the ACCA residual clause declared unconstitutionally vague in Johnson. Proceeding from the premise that Johnson extends to, and voids, the § 924(c)(3)(B) residual clause, Hatfield argued that his § 924(c) conviction could not stand because the kidnapping offense in Count 1, which served as the predicate “crime of violence” for his § 924(c) conviction, categorically fails to qualify as a crime of violence under § 924(c)'s remaining use-of-force clause, see § 924(c)(3)(A), as the elements of the federal kidnapping statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a), do not always involve the use of force.

         The Eleventh Circuit authorized Hatfield to file a second-or-successive § 2255 motion under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2255(h) and 2244(b)(3)(A) regarding his claim that his § 924(c) conviction was unlawful under Johnson.[3] In finding there was arguable merit to Hatfield's claim under Johnson, the Eleventh Circuit noted that it had not yet determined whether federal kidnapping is categorically a crime of violence for purposes of ยง 924(c), and that it was unclear whether the kidnapping statute categorically ...


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