United States District Court, District of Columbia
SEGAL HUVELLE United States District Judge.
Ralph T. Wilson has filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255 to vacate and correct his sentence in light of
the Supreme Court's decisions in Johnson v. United
States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015) and Welch v. United
States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016). For the reasons stated
herein, the motion is granted.
November 26, 1997, defendant entered a plea of guilty to one
count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon after
having been previously convicted of three crimes involving a
violent felony or a serious drug offense, in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and the Armed Career Criminal Act
(“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). (See
Gov't Opp'n, Ex. A, ¶ 1 (Plea Agreement, Nov.
26, 1997), ECF No. 51-1.) For purposes of the ACCA,
defendant's qualifying prior convictions included two
violent felonies and one serious drug offense: a 1982
conviction in Maryland Circuit Court for robbery
(“Maryland Robbery”); 1988 conviction in D.C.
Superior Court for Assault with a Deadly Weapon (“DC
ADW”); and a 1988 conviction in D.C. Superior Court for
possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession
of cocaine. The ACCA requires a mandatory minimum
sentence of 15-years imprisonment, which was imposed on
November 26, 1997. (See Judgment, Nov. 26, 1997, ECF
No. 46.) Defendant did not file an appeal.
time defendant was sentenced, the ACCA defined a
“violent felony” as:
any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one
year, or any act of juvenile delinquency involving the use or
carrying of a firearm, knife, or destructive device that
would be punishable by imprisonment for such term if
committed by an adult, 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.
Id. § 924(e)(2)(B). Subsection (i) is known as
the “elements clause”; subsection (ii)'s list
of offenses is known as the “enumerated clause”;
and the final phrase in subsection (ii) - “otherwise
involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of
physical injury to another” - is known as the
“residual clause.” United States v.
Redrick, 841 F.3d 478, 480 (D.C. Cir. 2016). However, on
June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court struck down the
“residual clause” as unconstitutionally vague.
See Johnson v United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015)
(“Johnson 2015”). Then, on April 16,
2016, the Supreme Court held that its holding in Johnson
2015 was “a substantive rule” that applies
retroactively to cases on collateral review. Welch v.
United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016).
had one year from the date of Johnson 2015 to file a
§ 2255 motion for collateral relief based on that
decision, see 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f),
only a few months of the year remained by the time the
Supreme Court decided Welch. Due to this short time
frame, the Chief Judge of this Court appointed the Office of
the Federal Public Defender (“FPD”) to represent
any convicted defendant who previously had been entitled to
the appointment of counsel and might have a claim under
Johnson and Welch. See Johnson
Standing Order No. 1, at 1-2 (D.D.C., June 2, 2016). For
those defendants, the Order directed the FPD to file an
abridged motion for relief by the one-year deadline, to be
supplemented with a fully briefed motion, where warranted, by
October 26, 2016. See id. June 26, 2016, fell on a
Sunday, so Johnson 2015 motions were due by Monday,
June 27, 2016. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(a)(1)(C).
28, 2016, the FPD filed defendant's abridged § 2255
motion. (See Def.'s Mot. Under 28
U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence,
ECF No. 48 (“Def.'s Mot.”).) The FPD
acknowledged that the motion was one day late, but it offered
the following explanation:
Mr. Wilson did not appear on the United States Sentencing
Commission's list of those sentenced under the ACCA and
counsel was unaware of his ACCA sentence until receiving a
telephone call on June 28, 2016 alerting counsel to this
case. While counsel has not received all documents needed to
properly assess this case, counsel is filing this motion to
preserve Mr. Wilson's ability to challenge his ACCA
sentence. After receipt of documents confirming the viability
of Mr. Wilson's challenge, this motion will be
supplemented by October 26, 2016, in accordance with the June
2, 2016, Standing Order.
(Id. at 1.) Defendant's fully briefed motion was
timely filed on October 26, 2016. (See Def.'s
Supp. Mot. to Vacate Judgment Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255,
ECF No. 51 (“Def.'s Supp. Mot.”).) On
December 30, 2016, the government filed an opposition (United
States' Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. & Supp. Mot.,
ECF No. 53 (“Gov't Opp'n”)), and
defendant filed a reply on January 31, 2017. (Def.'s
Reply Mem. in Support of Mot. & Supp. Mot., ECF No. 57
§ 2255 motion claims that, in light of Johnson
2015 and Welch, striking down the residual
clause and applying that decision retroactively to cases on
collateral review, his convictions for Maryland Robbery and
DC ADW are not violent felonies under the ACCA and his
15-year mandatory minimum sentence should be vacated. The
government argues that defendant is not entitled to relief,
for both procedural and substantive reasons.
federal prisoner may petition a district court to vacate, set
aside, or correct his sentence on the grounds “that the
sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws
of the United States, . . . or that the sentence was in
excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise
subject to collateral attack.” 28 U.S.C. §
2255(a). “If the court finds . . . that the sentence
imposed was not authorized by law or otherwise open to
collateral attack, or that there has been such a denial or
infringement of the constitutional rights of the prisoner as
to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack, the
court shall vacate and set the judgment aside and shall
discharge the prisoner or resentence him or grant a new trial
or correct the sentence as may appear appropriate.” 28
U.S.C. § 2255(b).
government argues that defendant's claim should be
rejected without reaching the merits either because it is
untimely or because ...