Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Daniels v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

June 16, 2017

MICHAEL DANIELS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Criminal No. 90-CR-42-JPS

          ORDER

          J.P. STADTMUELLER, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         On November 30, 2015, Petitioner Michael Daniels (“Daniels”) filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. (Docket #1). On March 19, 2016, with the aid of counsel and the Court's leave, Daniels filed an amended motion. (Docket #9). After the parties briefed the motion, the Court determined that it should be stayed pending resolution of several relevant appeals before the Seventh Circuit relating to the effect of Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), on the petition. (Docket #13). Also at that time, another pertinent case, Beckles v. United States, No. 15-8544, was pending in the Supreme Court.

         Beckles was decided on March 6, 2017. Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017). After that decision was issued, the parties sought to lift the stay in this case and brief how the disposition in Beckles affects Daniels' pending motion. See (Docket #16). That briefing completed, the Court now turns to considering the merits of Daniels' motion. For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that Beckles precludes his claim and, as a result, his motion must be denied.

         1. BACKGROUND

         In the underlying criminal case, Daniels was convicted of one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2; three counts of using a communication facility to facilitate the distribution of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 843(b) and 18 U.S.C. § 2; and one count of using firearms in relation to a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). He was sentenced as a career offender under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. The Court imposed concurrent sentences totaling 420 months on the narcotics offenses and a consecutive sentence of sixty months on the firearms offense, for a total of 480 months of incarceration.

         After a partially successful previous motion under Section 2255, the Court resentenced Daniels on November 25, 1997, again as a career offender under the Guidelines. This time, the Court imposed the same 420 months on the drug convictions but, in light of the result of the habeas motion, it did not impose a consecutive sentence for the firearm conviction. Daniels unsuccessfully appealed this resentencing and thereafter filed a number of post-conviction motions, some of which the Court characterized as Section 2255 motions. See (Case No. 90-CR-42-JPS, Docket #568). Eventually, he sought leave from the Court of Appeals to file the instant motion, which was granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3); (Case No. 90-CR-42-JPS, Docket #571).

         The Guidelines provide that those who qualify as “career offenders” must be given certain offense level and criminal history category increases. U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(b). A defendant is a career offender if (1) he was at least eighteen years old at the time he committed the instant offense of conviction; (2) the instant offense of conviction is a felony that is either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense; and (3) the defendant has at least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense. Id. § 4B1.1(a). At the time Daniels was sentenced, the term “crime of violence” as used in the Guidelines was defined as “any offense under federal or state law, 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, or (2) is burglary of a dwelling, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” Id. § 4B1.2(a) (emphasis added). The italicized portion of this definition is known as the “residual” clause.[1]

         One of Daniels' predicate offenses for purposes of the career-offender Guideline was a narcotics offense. (Docket #12 at 4). The parties agree that because it was not a drug trafficking offense, it should not have qualified as a predicate. Id. However, that issue is not presently before the Court because it should have been included in Daniels' prior collateral attacks and was not. See (Case No. 90-CR-42-JPS, Docket #571 at 2). Daniels therefore presses his claim only as to his other predicate offense, which involved sexual misconduct against a minor. (Docket #12 at 4). That crime qualified as a career-offender predicate only under the residual clause.

         At the time of Daniels' sentencing and resentencing, adherence to the Guidelines was mandatory. The Supreme Court in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 233 (2005), found that this practice was unconstitutional. Since Booker, the Guidelines are the starting point in fashioning sentences but can be departed from under appropriate circumstances. Peugh v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2072, 2083 (2013).

         In 2015, the Supreme Court invalidated the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 2560. The ACCA defines a “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.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B) (emphasis added). Notably, the emphasized portion of this definition is identical to the analogous clause in the career-offender Guideline, U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2), and it is also referred to as the “residual” clause. The Johnson Court found that the ACCA's residual clause is unconstitutionally vague, in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 2560.

         In 2015, Daniels filed the instant motion. According to him, because Johnson found that the ACCA's residual clause is unconstitutionally vague, the same result should obtain for the identically worded residual clause in the Guidelines. See United States v. Edwards, 836 F.3d 831, 835 n.2 (7th Cir. 2016) (observing that cases analyzing “violent felony” under the ACCA and “crime of violence” under the Guidelines are interchangeable). After Daniels' motion was fully briefed, the Court stayed the case pending resolution of several pertinent appeals, as noted above. Most salient here is the decision in Beckles, which held that the residual clause of the career-offender Guideline, unlike the ACCA, is not susceptible to vagueness challenges. Beckles, 137 S.Ct. at 897.

         Key to the Court's analysis was the fact that the ACCA represented a legislative pronouncement fixing the permissible range of sentences for qualifying conduct. Id. at 892. By contrast, the post-Booker, advisory Guidelines “merely guide the exercise of a court's discretion in choosing an appropriate sentence within the statutory range.” Id. Because judicial discretion is part and parcel of the Guidelines, the constitutional concerns that animated Johnson-providing notice to defendants of what conduct will subject them to enhanced penalties under the ACCA and preventing arbitrary application of the ACCA's standards-are not implicated by the Guidelines. Id.

         In her concurrence, Justice Sotomayor contended that the Guidelines should be open to vagueness challenges because of their centrality in the sentencing process. Id. at 900 (Sotomayor, J., concurring in the judgment). More important to this case, however, is her suggestion that “[t]he Court's adherence to the formalistic distinction between mandatory and advisory rules at least leaves open the question whether defendants sentenced to terms of imprisonment before our decision in [Booker]-that is, during the period in which the Guidelines did ‘fix the permissible range of sentences'-may mount vagueness attacks on their sentences.” Id. at 903 n.4 (internal citations omitted). Justice Sotomayor ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.