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Hadaway v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville

April 18, 2017

DANNY L. HADAWAY, Petitioner,



         Before the Court is Petitioner's supplemented motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Docs. 29, 33, 43].[1] He bases the request on Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), in which the Supreme Court held that the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), was unconstitutionally vague [Id.]. The United States responded in opposition on June 3, 2016 [Doc. 45]. Petitioner did not reply and the time for doing so has now passed. E.D. Tenn. L.R. 7.1, 7.2. For the reasons that follow, the supplemented § 2255 petition will be DENIED and DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2006, Petitioner pled guilty, pursuant to a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, to possessing a firearm as a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) [Doc. 14]. Petitioner had several prior Tennessee convictions at the time of his offense, including: a 1979 conviction for voluntary manslaughter [Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) ¶ 25], a 1987 conviction for aggravated assault [Id. ¶ 30]; and a 1993 conviction for aggravated assault [Id. ¶ 33]. Petitioner agreed in his plea agreement that these three offenses made him an armed career criminal subject to the ACCA's fifteen-year term of imprisonment [Doc. 14]. In accordance with that designation and the terms of Petitioner's Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea, this Court sentenced Petitioner to 180 months' imprisonment on April 26, 2006 [Doc. 27]. Petitioner did not appeal his conviction or sentence.

         Eight years later, Petitioner filed an original § 2255 motion challenging his armed career criminal designation based on Descamps v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2276, 2285 (2013) [Doc. 29]. He submitted an amended version of the same shortly thereafter [Doc. 33]. The Supreme Court decided Johnson on June 26, 2015 and, on May 6, 2016, Petitioner submitted a second amended motion challenging his armed career criminal designation based on that decision [Doc. 43].


         The relief authorized by 28 U.S.C. § 2255 “does not encompass all claimed errors in conviction and sentencing.” United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 185 (1979). Rather, a petitioner must demonstrate “(1) an error of constitutional magnitude; (2) a sentence imposed outside the statutory limits; or (3) an error of fact or law . . . so fundamental as to render the entire proceeding invalid.” Short v. United States, 471 F.3d 686, 691 (6th Cir. 2006) (quoting Mallett v. United States, 334 F.3d 491, 496-97 (6th Cir. 2003)). He “must clear a significantly higher hurdle than would exist on direct appeal” and establish a “fundamental defect in the proceedings which necessarily results in a complete miscarriage of justice or an egregious error violative of due process.” Fair v. United States, 157 F.3d 427, 430 (6th Cir. 1998).

         III. ANALYSIS

         The supplemented petition contains a single ground, arguing that the 1979 voluntary manslaughter and 1987 aggravated assault convictions no longer qualify as “violent felonies” under § 924(e) after Descamps and Johnson and that, without those convictions, Petitioner does not qualify for ACCA enhancement [Docs. 29, 33, 43 (challenging ACCA designation)].

         A. Propriety of Armed Career Criminal Designation After the Johnson Decision

         The ACCA mandates a fifteen-year sentence for any felon who unlawfully possesses a firearm after having sustained three prior convictions “for a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both, committed on occasions different from one another.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1) (emphasis added). The provision defines “serious drug offense” as any “offense under State law, involving manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to manufacture or distribute, a controlled substance . . . for which a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years or more is prescribed by law.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(A)(ii). The Act goes on to define “violent felony” as “any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” that (1) “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another” (the “use-of-physical-force clause”); (2) “is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves the use of explosives” (the “enumerated-offense clause”); or (3) “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another” (the “residual clause”). 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B). Only the third portion of the above definition-the residual clause-was held to be unconstitutionally vague by the Supreme Court in the Johnson decision. 135 S.Ct. at 2563. The Court went on to make clear, however, that its decision did not call into question the remainder of the ACCA's definition of violent felony-the use-of-physical-force and enumerated-offense clauses. Id.; United States v. Priddy, 808 F.3d 676, 682-83 (6th Cir. 2015). Nor does Johnson disrupt the use of prior serious drug offenses as an independent form of ACCA predicate conviction. See, e.g., United States v. Smith, No. 10-CR-20058, 2015 WL 5729114, at *9-13 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 20, 2015) (noting that Johnson does not affect a defendant's categorization as an armed career criminal based on his or her prior serious drug offenses).

         Petitioner does not dispute that his 1993 conviction for aggravated assault remains a predicate offense under the ACCA. As such, the sole dispute between the parties is whether or not his 1979 voluntary manslaughter and 1987 aggravated assault convictions remain “violent felonies” under one of the unaffected provisions of § 924(e)(2)(B). See, e.g., United States v. Ozier, 796 F.3d 597, 604 (6th Cir. 2015) (denying petition where convictions qualified as a predicates independent of the residual clause), overturned on other grounds by Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2246, 2251 n.1 (2016). For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that they do.[2]

         1. Categorical and Modified Categorical Approaches

         To determine whether Petitioner's convictions for voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault remain violent felonies after Descamps and Johnson, the Court needs to identify the precise crimes of conviction. Descamps, 133 S.Ct. at 2285. To do so, it must employ a “categorical approach, ” under which it looks “only to the statutory definitions- elements-of a defendant's prior offense, and not to the particular facts underlying [each individual] conviction[].” Id. at 2283 (internal quotations omitted). If the statute categorically aligns with the generic version of the offense, the inquiry is over. If, however, the statute criminalizes conduct in excess of that covered by the enumerated-offense clause, it becomes necessary to determine whether the statute is divisible or indivisible. A divisible statute is ...

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