United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
DOUGLAS P. WOODLOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter arises out of the 2014 conviction of the Petitioner,
Hasaan Beazer, for being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm,
in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). On February 13,
2014, Mr. Beazer was sentenced to 15 years and 8 months in
prison for that offense as an armed career criminal subject
to the minimum mandatory sentencing enhancement imposed by
the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”).
2016, Mr. Beazer filed the present petition for habeas corpus
to vacate and correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. §
2255, arguing that, in light of Johnson v. United
States (“Johnson II”), 135 S.Ct.
2551 (2015), he does not qualify as an armed career criminal
and is entitled to resentencing.
reasons stated below, the petition will be granted, and Mr.
Beazer will be resentenced.
April 23, 2014, Mr. Beazer was charged in a one count
indictment with being a felon in possession of a firearm,
specifically, a Walther PPK .380 caliber pistol and six
rounds of .380 caliber ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g)(1). Mr. Beazer pled guilty to the offense
pursuant to a plea agreement.
Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) prepared
by the Probation Office prior to sentencing found Mr. Beazer
had three prior state convictions for either a violent felony
or a serious drug offense, and therefore was an armed career
criminal subject to a sentencing enhancement. In particular,
the PSR listed the following convictions as predicate
offenses for the purposes of the ACCA sentencing enhancement:
(1) June 26, 2007 convictions in Norfolk Superior Court for
Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon, Simple Assault
and Battery, Carjacking, and Armed Robbery. [PSR ¶ 32];
(2) August 20, 2007 convictions in New Bedford District Court
for Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon and Simple
Assault. [PSR ¶ 34]. The PSR also indicated that it
considered another August 20, 2007 conviction for Assault
with a Dangerous Weapon and a conviction for Simple Assault,
part of the same incident and August 20, 2007
sentencing. [PSR ¶ 33]; and,
(3) A February 11, 2013 conviction in Fall River District
court for Possession with Intent to Distribute a Class B and
Class E substance. [PSR ¶ 36].
Beazer did not object to his classification as an armed
career criminal under the ACCA, but argued that I should
lower his criminal history category as an exercise of my
discretion because his prior crimes were the result of his
mental health issues, and because the mandatory minimum
sentence imposed by ACCA was disproportionate to the severity
of his offense. I rejected that argument and, on February 13,
2014, sentenced Mr. Beazer to 188 months incarceration, with
credit for time served, and 3 years of supervised release.
The sentence was tailored to reflect his status as an armed
career criminal, the seriousness of the underlying offense,
and his circumstances with respect to mental health and
Beazer had not been classified as an armed career criminal,
he would have been subject, at most, to ten years
incarceration - the statutory maximum penalty for a violation
of 18 U.S.C. § 922 in the absence of the ACCA sentencing
enhancement. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1),
Procedural Background and the Present Petition
ACCA and the Supreme Court's Decision in Johnson
ACCA directs imposition of a mandatory minimum sentence of 15
years incarceration for “[any] person who violates
section 922(g) . . . and has three previous convictions by
any court . . . 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). Individuals who
do not have three prior convictions and therefore do not
qualify for the sentencing enhancement are subject to a
maximum penalty of ten years incarceration for violations of
18 U.S.C. § 922. 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2).
the statute, a “serious drug offense” includes
any federal offense “under the Controlled Substances
Act . . . the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act . .
. or chapter 705 of Title 46” or any state offense
“involving manufacturing, distributing, or possessing
with intent to manufacture or distribute, 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). The term
“violent felony” is defined as any felony that
either “(i) has as an element the use, attempted use,
or threated use of physical force against the person of
another; or (ii) is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves
the 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).
2015, the Supreme Court in Johnson II concluded the
last clause of 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B), known as the
residual clause, was unconstitutionally vague. Johnson
II, 135 at 2259. “[T]he residual clause, ”
the Court held, “leaves grave uncertainty about how to
estimate the risk posed by a crime” because it
“ties the judicial assessment of risk to a judicially
imagined ‘ordinary case' of a crime.”
Id. It also “leaves uncertainty about how much
risk it takes for a crime to qualify as a violent felony,
” especially because the residual clause required
judges to apply “an imprecise ‘serious potential
risk' standard” to “a judge-imagined
abstraction.” Id. at 2558. However, the Court
left in place both the first clause of section 924(e)(2)(B),
known as the force clause, and the definition of a
“serious drug offense” under section 924(e)(1).
following year, on April 18, 2016, the Court held that
“Johnson [II] announced a substantive
rule that has retroactive effect in cases on collateral
review.” Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct.
1257, 1268 (2016).
The Present Petition
June 23, 2016 motion to vacate and correct his sentence
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, Mr. Beazer argues that he
was improperly characterized as an armed career criminal
under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) because certain prior
convictions were no longer valid predicate offenses for the
purposes of ACCA.
THE DRUG OFFENSE
addition to his claims for relief under Johnson II,
which I address in Section III below, Mr. Beazer also argues
that his February 11, 2013 conviction for Possession with
Intent to Distribute Crack Cocaine, should not be considered
a predicate offense under ACCA. Mr. Beazer concedes that this
particular basis for relief does not flow from Johnson
II, but instead presents it as an alternative.
reasons set forth below, I find both that this argument is
barred and that, even if not barred, it fails on the merits.
Mr. Beazer's February 11, 2013 conviction for Possession
with Intent to Distribute Crack Cocaine was properly
classified as a predicate offense under ACCA and his belated
effort to assert this claim is unavailing.
Beazer's contention that his drug conviction was not
properly counted as an ACCA predicate is both untimely and
federal law, an individual seeking habeas relief must bring
his claim within a one-year statutory limitations period that
runs from the latest of:
(1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes
final; (2) the date on which the impediment to making a
motion created by governmental action . . . is removed; (3)
the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized
by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized
by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to
cases on collateral review; or (4) the date on which facts
supporting the claim . . . could have been discovered.
28 U.S.C. § 2255(f).
Mr. Beazer filed his petition for habeas relief with respect
to the classification of his drug conviction on June 23,
2016, more than one year after his conviction and sentence in
federal court became final on February 13, 2014. [Dkt. No.
41]. What is more, while Johnson announced a new
rule of constitutional law with retroactive effect, see
Welch, 136 S.Ct. at 1268, its holding did not implicate
the definition of a “serious drug offense” under
ACCA. It certainly did not recognize a right that is
applicable to any drug offense claim. Consequently, the
one-year limitations period for this claim did not reset on
June 26, 2015, when Johnson II was announced; nor
did it reset on April 18, 2016, when Johnson II was
made retroactively applicable on collateral review.
Beazer has made no contention here that he was somehow
impeded from bringing this claim earlier by some action or
omission on the part of the Government; nor does he allege
any newly discovered facts that would affect his claim.
conclude Mr. Beazer's claim with respect to his drug
conviction is therefore barred by the one-year limitations