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United States v. Maxwell

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

May 21, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES STEVEN MAXWELL, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JAMES H. PAYNE JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant James Steven Maxwell's (“Defendant”) amended Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody (Dkt. 90). Defendant contends his detention pursuant to the Judgment and Sentence of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, in No. 10-CR-190-JHP, is unlawful. Defendant has filed a separate Brief in Support of his Motion. (Dkt. 94). Plaintiff the United States of America (“Government”) filed a Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion (Dkt. 57), and Defendant filed a Reply (Dkt. 98). The Government subsequently filed a Notice of Supplemental Authority (Dkt. 101). For the reasons cited herein, Defendant's Motion pursuant to § 2255 is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         On December 7, 2010, a federal Grand Jury indicted Defendant with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e)(1) (Counts One and Two). (Dkt. 7 (Indictment)). On March 29, 2011, Defendant was convicted by a jury of both Counts One and Two. (Dkt. 47 (Jury Verdict)).

         In advance of sentencing, the United States Probation Office prepared a Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) as to Defendant, in which it was recommended he be classified as an Armed Career Criminal (“ACC”) under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) (“ACCA”). (PSR ¶ 19). Defendant's ACC classification was based on his having committed the § 922(g)(1) offense after sustaining three prior convictions for a violent felony or serious drug offense. Defendant's predicate ACC convictions were two convictions for Assault with a Dangerous Weapon, in violation of 21 Okl. St. § 645 (Texas County, Oklahoma No. CRF-81-294; Tulsa County No. CRF-85-644), and one conviction for Use of a Firearm During a Drug Trafficking Crime (Northern District of Oklahoma No. 94-CR-103-001-E). (See PSR ¶¶ 19, 23, 26, 30). As an ACC, Defendant faced a fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence. (PSR ¶ 57).

         Defendant objected to his ACC classification, challenging the use of his two assault convictions as predicates to enhance his sentence (Dkt. 51). In his Objections to the PSR, Defendant argued his assault convictions were improper ACC predicates because he was never informed during those guilty pleas that such convictions could later be used as sentencing enhancements. (Dkt. 51). As a result, Defendant argued those guilty pleas were not freely and voluntarily made and therefore were invalid as a matter of law. (Id.). He further challenged use of the 1981 Texas County assault conviction on the ground it was not a felony. (Dkt. 56). Defendant did not contest the applicability of his Use of a Firearm During a Drug Trafficking Crime conviction. The Government opposed Defendant's objections. (Dkt. 58).

         At sentencing, the Court overruled Defendant's objections and found Defendant to be an ACC. (Dkt. 70 (Sent. Tr.), at 21-23). The Court sentenced Defendant to imprisonment for 195 months on each Count, to run concurrently with each other and with any sentence in Tulsa County No. CF-2010-4393. (Dkt. 61 (Judgment & Commitment)).

         Defendant appealed his convictions and sentence. Defendant presented his previous objections to use of his 1981 assault conviction as an ACCA predicate. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the convictions and sentence imposed by this Court. United States v. Maxwell, 492 Fed.Appx. 860 (10th Cir. 2012). Defendant did not petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, and he did not file a § 2255 motion or other collateral challenge prior to the present proceeding.

         Defendant has now filed an amended motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence. (Dkt. 90). Defendant raises a single ground in his motion, that his ACCA sentence violates due process based on United States v. Johnson, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015) (Dkt. 90, at 4). Defendant also filed a Brief in Support of his Motion (Dkt. 94). The Government filed a Response in Opposition (Dkt. 97), and Defendant filed a Reply (Dkt. 98). The Government also filed a Notice of Supplemental Authority, notifying the Court of the Tenth Circuit's opinion in United States v. Taylor, 843 F.3d 1215 (10th Cir. 2016). (Dkt. 101). The pending motion is now fully briefed and ripe for this Court's review.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Ground One: Relief Pursuant to Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015)

         In Ground One of his § 2255 motion, Defendant argues his ACCA sentence violates due process, based on Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). Defendant argues that under Johnson, his two prior convictions for assault with a dangerous weapon are no longer ACCA predicates, because those convictions were supported by the ACCA's “residual clause.” Without those convictions, Defendant asserts his ACCA sentence is supported by only one valid predicate conviction, which is insufficient to support the enhancement.

         The ACCA provides an enhanced sentence for a person who is convicted as a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and has three prior convictions for violent felonies or serious drug offenses. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). The ACCA defines “violent felony, ” in relevant part, to mean any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year that (1) “has an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another” (the “elements clause”); (2) “is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives” (the “enumerated offenses clause”); or (3) “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another” (the “residual clause”). 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii).

         In Johnson, the United States Supreme Court held the enhanced sentence could not be imposed pursuant to the ACCA's residual clause. 135 S.Ct. at 2563. The Supreme Court found the residual clause violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, because it was impermissibly vague on its face. Id. at 2557. While the Court concluded the residual clause was void in its entirety, the Court explicitly noted that application of the first two ...


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