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United States v. Goodridge

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

July 23, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
RALPH A. GOODRIDGE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING AMENDED MOTION TO VACATE UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (DKT. NO. 296)

          MARK G. MASTROIANNI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         On June 23, 1997, a federal jury found Ralph A. Goodridge (“Defendant”) guilty of three counts: bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) (Count One), using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) (Count Two), [1] and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C § 922(g)(1) (Count Four). Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment on Count One pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c)(1) (commonly known as the “three strikes law”), which mandated a life sentence for a person convicted of “a serious violent felony” if he or she had two or more convictions of “serious violent felonies” on separate prior occasions. Defendant also was sentenced to life imprisonment on Count Four pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1) (the Armed Career Criminal Act or “ACCA”), which prescribed a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years imprisonment and a maximum of life for a person who violates section 922(g) and “has three previous convictions” for “a violent felony” committed on different occasions. In addition, Defendant was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment on Count Two, which was to be served consecutively to the life sentences.

         On July 20, 2016, the First Circuit granted Defendant's application for leave to file a second or successive motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In his Amended Second or Successive 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Motion to Vacate, Defendant challenges the life sentences imposed pursuant to the ACCA and 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c), as well as the ten-year sentence for violating 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1), based on the principles set forth in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), and its progeny. For the following reasons, the court concludes Defendant has met his burden of demonstrating the illegality of his life sentences on Counts One and Four, but he has not done so with respect to his conviction and ten-year sentence on Count Two.

         II. background and Procedural History

         Following Defendant's conviction, the United States Probation Office prepared a presentence report (“PSR”) in advance of sentencing. (Dkt. No. 311-1, PSR.) Among other information, the PSR recounted Defendant's prior convictions. It identified the following convictions as predicate violent felonies under the ACCA: Massachusetts breaking and entering in the daytime as a juvenile in 1969 (¶ 46); Massachusetts assault and battery on a corrections officer in 1973 (¶ 66); Massachusetts assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (“ABDW”), and assault on a prison guard in 1977 (¶ 77); assault on a federal officer in 1979 (¶ 80); and Massachusetts armed robbery while masked (five counts), and assault with a dangerous weapon (“ADW”) (ten counts) in 1985 (¶ 81). (See PSR ¶ 85.) The PSR also identified as predicate serious violent felonies under 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c)(1) the 1977 convictions for ABDW and assault on a prison guard (¶ 77), as well as the 1985 convictions for armed robbery while masked and ADW (¶ 81). (See Id. ¶ 125a.)

         At Defendant's sentencing hearing on November 6, 1997, the court (Freedman, J.) explicitly found that the predicate convictions identified in the PSR “at paragraphs 46, 66, 77, 80, and 81” qualified him for Armed Career Criminal status, and thus an enhanced penalty, under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). (Dkt. No. 297-4 at 4.) The court also found that “there were at least two, if not more, previous acts of violence that this defendant was involved in prior to this particular case . . . that puts the defendant squarely within the three strikes and you're out provisions of” 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c) and therefore mandated a prison sentence of life. (Id. at 4-6.) Accordingly, the court sentenced Defendant to “terms of life imprisonment on Count 1 and 4 to be served concurrently . . . followed by a sentence of imprisonment for ten years on Count 2.” (Id. at 8.)

         Defendant filed a direct appeal, claiming trial error related to certain statements made by the prosecutor during closing arguments, but the First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction and sentence on January 7, 1999. See United States v. Goodridge, 164 F.3d 687 (1st Cir. 1999). Defendant also filed a petition for writ of certiorari, which the Supreme Court denied on May 3, 1999. Goodridge v. United States, 526 U.S. 1103 (1999). Then, on March 17, 2000, Defendant filed his first motion to vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel as well as evidentiary errors at trial, which the court (Freedman, J.) denied on February 28, 2001. (Dkt. No. 274-2 at 70, 165.) And on July 30, 2002, the First Circuit denied Defendant's request for a certificate of appealability. (No. 01-1688.)

         On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court decided Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), which held that the so-called “residual clause” of the ACCA-defining a “violent felony” as including “any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year . . . that . . . otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious risk of physical injury to another, ” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii)-was unconstitutionally vague. On February 16, 2016, Defendant, relying on Johnson, filed a pro se application for permission to file a second or successive motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 with the First Circuit. (No. 16-1219.) After this court appointed Defendant counsel, he filed a motion to amend his application for second or successive 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion with the First Circuit, seeking to expand his Johnson-based challenge to include his sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c) and his conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). (Id.) The First Circuit granted Defendant's motion to amend, and on July 20, 2016 granted Defendant's application for permission to file a second or successive 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion. (Id.; Dkt. No. 275.) On July 29, 2016, the First Circuit entered a Corrected Judgment clarifying that the order to transfer Defendant's filings to this court included the amended 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion. (Dkt. No. 277.) The First Circuit noted, however, that because Defendant made the necessary showing under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h)(2) (requiring a second or successive 2255 motion to contain “a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable”) as to his sentence under the ACCA, it “need not reach the question whether Johnson applies to invalidate the residual clause of 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c), ” and it took “no position on whether [Defendant] may raise additional Johnson claims [beyond the ACCA] in the district court.” (Id.)[2]

         On September 21, 2016, this court granted Defendant's Assented-to Motion to Stay, which sought a stay of this proceeding pending the Supreme Court's decision in Beckles v. United States, on which certiorari had been granted on June 27, 2016. (Dkt. Nos. 282, 283.) Then, on March 9, 2017, Defendant filed another Assented-to Motion to Stay, this time pending the Supreme Court's decision in Sessions v. Dimaya, on which certiorari had been granted on September 29, 2016. (Dkt. No. 286.) This court granted Defendant's second motion to stay on March 13, 2017. (Dkt. No. 287.) In a July 10, 2017 Assented-to Status Report, Defendant reported that although the Supreme Court heard argument in Dimaya on January 17, 2017, it subsequently restored that case to its calendar for re-argument the following term. (Dkt. No. 289.) In response, this court extended the stay pending the Supreme Court's decision in Dimaya. (Dkt. No. 290.) On November 1, 2018, the parties filed a Joint Status Report explaining that the Supreme Court issued its decision in Sessions v. Dimaya, ---U.S. ---, 138 S.Ct. 1204 (2018), and proposing filing deadlines. (Dkt. No. 292.) On November 5, 2018, the court lifted the stay and adopted the parties' proposed briefing schedule, which included the filing of an amended motion to vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Dkt. No. 293.) Defendant filed his amended motion to vacate on December 11, 2018, and the parties completed briefing on March 13, 2019. (Dkt. Nos. 296, 308.) On May 8, 2019, however, the court ordered the government to confer with Defendant's counsel and confirm with the U.S. Probation Office that the PSR the government filed as an exhibit in its briefing was the correct, final version of the PSR. (Dkt. No. 309.) On May 15, 2019, the government filed the final version of the PSR, explaining that its initial filing inadvertently included a draft version of the PSR.[3]

         IV. Statutory Framework

         The ACCA fixes a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for a defendant convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) and who “has three previous convictions . . . for a violent felony . . . committed on occasions different from one another.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). The statute defines “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). The first clause, § 924(e)(2)(B)(i), is generally known as the “force clause.” The second clause, § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii), itself contains two distinct parts. The first portion of § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii) (ending with “explosives”) is generally known as the “enumerated offenses clause.” And the second portion of § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii) (which is italicized) is generally known as the “residual clause.” Although the Supreme Court in Johnson invalidated the residual clause as unconstitutionally vague, it left intact both the force clause and the enumerated offenses clause. Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 2563. Only the force clause is at issue in this case.

         Courts determine whether a prior conviction satisfies the force clause of the ACCA by using the “categorical approach.” United States v. Starks, 861 F.3d 306, 315 (1st Cir. 2017). Under this approach, “a prior conviction will either count or not based solely on the fact of conviction rather than on facts particular to the individual defendant's case.” United States v. Faust, 853 F.3d 39, 50 (1st Cir 2017). “[T]he question, ” therefore, “does not turn on whether the defendant used, attempted to use, or threatened to use violent force in committing the crime as a matter of historical fact, but on whether the use, attempted use, or threatened use of violent force is required to satisfy one of the crime's elements.” Starks, 861 F.3d at 315. In other words, the court “consider[s] only whether the least serious conduct for which there is a ‘realistic probability' of a charge and conviction necessarily involves the use of violent force.” Id. (quoting Moncrieffe v. Holder, 569 U.S. 184, 191 (2013)). If, however, a criminal statute is “divisible”-meaning, it “list[s] elements in the alternative, . . . thereby defin[ing] multiple crimes”-courts look “to a limited class of documents [known as Shepard documents] (for example, the indictment, jury instructions, or plea agreement and colloquy) to determine what crime, with what elements, a defendant was convicted of.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Under 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c), a defendant convicted of “a serious violent felony” is subject to a mandatory minimum life imprisonment sentence if the defendant was previously convicted “on separate prior occasions” of “2 or more serious violent felonies” and “each serious violent felony used as a basis for sentencing under this subsection, other than the first, was committed after the defendant's conviction of the preceding serious violent felony.” 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c)(1). This statute defines “serious violent felony” similar to the ACCA's definition of “violent felony.” First, under 18 U.S.C. § 3559(F)(i), “serious violent felony” includes a list of enumerated offenses and thus is known as the “enumerated offenses clause.” Second, under 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c)(2)(F)(ii), “serious violent felony” includes

any other offense punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years or more that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another or that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.

18 U.S.C. § 3559(c)(2)(F)(ii) (emphasis added). Again, as with the ACCA, the first part of this definition is known as the “force clause, ” and the second portion (which is italicized) is known as the “residual clause.”

         In addition, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) makes it unlawful for “any person who, during and in relation to any crime of violence . . ., uses or carries a firearm, or who, in furtherance of any such crime, possesses a firearm.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). This statute defines “crime of violence”

as an offense that is a felony and-
(A) has as an element the use, attempted to 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). Once again, the first clause, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(A), is known as the “force clause” and the second clause, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B), is known as the “residual clause.” The Supreme Court in United States v. Davis, __U.S.__, 139 S.Ct. 2319, 2325-32 (June 24, 2019), held that the categorical approach applies to the residual clause and, as a result, it is unconstitutionally vague for the ...


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