United States District Court, District of Columbia
L. FRIEDMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the motion [Dkt. No. 246] of
the United States for restitution under the Mandatory Victims
Restitution Act (“MVRA”), 18 U.S.C. § 3663A,
or in the alternative, under the Victim and Witness
Protection Act (“VWPA”), 18 U.S.C. § 3663.
Defendant Rico Rodrigus Williams opposes the motion. Upon
careful consideration of the parties' papers, the
relevant legal authorities, and the entire record in this
case, the Court will grant the motion in part.
Williams, a former member of the United States Air Force,
killed Army Sergeant Juwan Johnson during a gang initiation
that took place on July 3, 2005 near the Ramstein Air Force
Base in Germany. See United States v. Williams, 946
F.Supp.2d 112, 114 (D.D.C. 2013). On November 15, 2010, after
a twelve-day jury trial, Mr. Williams was convicted of one
count of second degree murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 1111(a), and one count of witness tampering, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(3). See United
States v. Williams, 946 F.Supp.2d at 114. The Court
sentenced Mr. Williams in April 2012 to twenty-two years in
prison on his second degree murder conviction and ten years
in prison on his witness tampering conviction, the two
sentences to run concurrently. See id. at 113. The
Court also imposed five years of supervised release, with
conditions, following the period of incarceration. See
id. At sentencing, the Court informed the parties that
restitution would be ordered, but deferred determination of
the amount of restitution until the parties had an
opportunity to file supplemental briefs. See id.
Following supplemental briefing, in May 2013, the Court
ordered Mr. Williams to pay restitution in the amount of
$756, 000 to Sergeant Johnson's estate under the MVRA.
See id. at 114-15.
February 2016, the D.C. Circuit reversed the conviction for
second degree murder and remanded for a new trial. See
United States v. Williams, 836 F.3d 1, 19 (D.C. Cir.
2016). This Court subsequently vacated the second degree
murder conviction and the restitution order based on that
conviction. See May 3, 2017 Order. On June 15, 2017,
Mr. Williams pled guilty to a superseding information
charging him with one count of involuntary manslaughter under
18 U.S.C. § 1112(a). See Plea Agreement. That
same day, the Court sentenced Mr. Williams to eight years in
prison for involuntary manslaughter and eight years in prison
for witness tampering, those sentences to run concurrently,
followed by three years of supervised release. See
Amended Judgment at 3. The Court deferred determination of
the amount of restitution pending further briefing from the
parties. See id. at 8.
October 2017, the United States filed the instant motion for
restitution. The United States asks the Court to order
restitution under the MVRA in the amount of $756, 000 - the
full amount of Sergeant Johnson's future lost income -
based on the same evidence and expert analysis considered by
the Court in its prior restitution opinion. In the
alternative, the United States argues that the Court has
discretion to award the same amount of restitution under the
VWPA. Mr. Williams responds that the MVRA does not apply in
this case. As to the VWPA, Mr. Williams argues that the VWPA
does not authorize restitution based on future lost income
and that even if it did, the Court should decline to award
restitution in light of his indigent status.
courts may order restitution only when statutes authorize
restitution. See United States v. Papagno, 639 F.3d
1093, 1096 (D.C. Cir. 2011). As relevant here, two statutes
authorize restitution in criminal cases: the Victim and
Witness Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3663
(“VWPA”), and the Mandatory Victims Restitution
Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3663A (“MVRA”).
enacted the VWPA in 1982, with subsequent amendments over the
years. The VWPA authorizes district courts, within their
discretion, to order restitution to victims of certain
criminal conduct. See 18 U.S.C. § 3663(a)(1)(A)
(providing that courts “may order” the defendant
to make restitution to any victim of an offense or, if the
victim is deceased, to the victim's estate). In
determining “whether” to order restitution, the
VWPA requires courts to consider the following factors: (1)
“the amount of the loss sustained by each victim as a
result of the offense”; (2) “the financial
resources of the defendant, [and] the financial needs and
earning ability of the defendant and the defendant's
dependents”; and (3) “such other factors as the
court deems appropriate.” See id. §
3663(a)(1)(B)(i). The VWPA also provides that “[t]o the
extent that the court determines that the complication and
prolongation of the sentencing process resulting from the
fashioning of an order of restitution under this section
outweighs the need to provide restitution to any victims, the
court may decline to make such an order.” Id.
1996, Congress enacted the MVRA to make restitution mandatory
in a broad range of cases involving crimes of violence and
certain property crimes. See United States v.
Sizemore, 850 F.3d 821, 825-26 (6th Cir. 2017). In
particular, the MVRA requires defendants convicted of certain
offenses to pay restitution to the victim, or to the
victim's estate, for losses proximately caused by the
defendant's criminal conduct. The MVRA provides as
any other provision of law, when sentencing a defendant
convicted of an offense described in subsection (c), the
court shall order, in addition to . . . any other penalty
authorized by law, that the defendant make restitution to the
victim of the offense or, if the victim is deceased, to the
victim's estate. 18 U.S.C. § 3663A(a)(1). Subsection
(c), in turn, provides that the MVRA applies only to certain
offenses, including any offense that is a “crime of
violence” under 18 U.S.C. § 16. See 18
U.S.C. § 3663A(c)(1)(A)(i).
orders under both the MVRA and VWPA are issued and enforced
in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 3664. See 18
U.S.C. § 3663A(d) (the MVRA); id. §
3663(d) (the VWPA). Pursuant to Section 3664(e), the United
States bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the
evidence the amount of loss sustained by the victim.
See 18 U.S.C. § 3664(e); United States v.
Fair, 699 F.3d 508, 513 (D.C. Cir. 2012); United
States v. Emor, 850 F.Supp.2d 176, 201 (D.D.C. 2012).
The burden of demonstrating the financial resources of the
defendant and the financial needs of the defendant's
dependents “shall be on the defendant.”
See 18 U.S.C. § 3664(e). In each order of
restitution, “the court shall order restitution to each
victim in the full amount of each victim's losses as
determined by the court and without consideration of the
economic circumstances of the defendant.” Id.
§ 3664(f)(1)(A). After determining the amount of
restitution owed, the court must specify the “manner in
which, and the schedule according to which, the restitution
is to be paid.” Id. § 3664(f)(2).
instant motion turns on whether involuntary manslaughter
under 18 U.S.C. § 1112(a) is a “crime of
violence” under 18 U.S.C. § 16(a). If it is, then
the MVRA applies and mandates restitution in the full amount
of the victim's losses, which the Court previously
determined to be $756, 000. See United States v.
Williams, 946 F.Supp.2d at 114-15. If the offense is not
a crime of violence, then the VWPA applies and the decision
to order restitution is left to the Court's discretion.
MVRA mandates restitution for any offense that constitutes a
“crime of violence” under 18 U.S.C. § 16.
See 18 U.S.C. § 3663A(c)(1)(A)(i). In its prior
restitution opinion, the Court ordered restitution under the
MVRA because second degree murder “undoubtedly is a
crime of violence.” See United States v.
Williams, 946 F.Supp.2d at 115. As noted, Mr.
Williams' second degree murder conviction was reversed on
appeal and the restitution order based on that conviction was
vacated as a result. Mr. Williams subsequently pled guilty to
involuntary manslaughter under 18 U.S.C. § 1112(a).
According to the United States, the MVRA continues to apply
in this case because involuntary manslaughter under Section
1112(a) is a crime of violence for purposes of Section 16(a).
See Mot. at 5-11.
16(a) defines a “crime of violence” as “an
offense that has as an element the use, attempted use, or
threatened use of physical force against the person or
property of another.” 18 U.S.C. § 16(a). To
determine whether a given offense qualifies as a crime of
violence under Section 16(a), courts use a categorical
approach and “look to the elements and the nature of
the offense of conviction, rather than to the particular
facts relating to [the defendant's] crime.” See
Leocal v. Ashcroft, 543 U.S. 1, 7 (2004); see also
Johnson v. United States, 559 U.S. 133, 140 (2010)
(applying the same standard to determine whether an offense
is a “crime of violence” under Section 16(a) or a
“violent felony” under 18 U.S.C. §
924(e)(2)(B), a provision of the Armed Career Criminal Act);
United States v. Haight, 892 F.3d 1271, 1279 (D.C.
Cir. 2018) (applying categorical approach to hold that D.C.
assault with a dangerous weapon is a “violent
felony” under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)). In other words,
as Judge (now Justice) Kavanaugh put it in Haight:
[W]e assess the crime categorically, ‘in terms of how
the law defines the offense and not in terms of how an
individual offender might have committed it on a particular
occasion.' If the law defines the crime in such a way
that it can be committed using either violent or non-violent
force, then the crime is not a violent felony under [the
Armed Career Criminal Act], even if the defendant actually
used violent force in committing the crime.
United States v. Haight, 892 F.3d at 1279 (internal
the categorical approach here, the question is whether
involuntary manslaughter necessarily involves “the use,
attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against
the person or property of another.” Involuntary
manslaughter is defined in the relevant statute as “the
unlawful killing of a human being without malice” that
is “[i]n the commission of an unlawful act not
amounting to a felony, or in the commission in an unlawful
manner, or without due caution and circumspection, of a
lawful act which might produce death.” See 18
U.S.C. § 1112(a). In this case, the relevant elements of
involuntary manslaughter, as stipulated to and agreed upon by
the parties in the Statement of Offense supporting the plea
agreement, are as follows: (1) Mr. Williams “unlawfully
caused the death” of Sergeant Johnson; (2) Mr. Williams