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Deboles v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division

April 25, 2017

GEORGE LORENZO DEBOLES, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. No. 2:13-cr-11

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          R. STAN BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         George Lorenzo Deboles, (“Deboles”), who is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman, Florida, filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct his Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Doc. 1.) For the reasons which follow, I RECOMMEND this Court DENY Deboles' Motion and DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case. I also RECOMMEND that the Court DENY Deboles a Certificate of Appealability and DENY Deboles in forma pauperis status on appeal.

         BACKGROUND

         Deboles pled guilty in this Court to Hobbs Act robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951, and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), on June 18, 2013. Plea, United States v. Deboles, 2:13-cr-11 (S.D. Ga. June 18, 2013), ECF No. 39. The Honorable Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced Deboles to 240 months' imprisonment. J., United States v. Deboles, 2:13-cr-11 (S.D. Ga. Dec. 10, 2013), ECF No. 49. Deboles did not file an appeal. On June 2, 2016, Deboles filed this Section 2255 Motion, in which he asserts that he should be resentenced in light of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, ___ U.S.___, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (June 26, 2015). (Doc. 1.) Respondent filed a Supplemental Response, (doc. 6), to Deboles' Motion after the Court granted Deboles' Motion to Stay his 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Motion pending the Supreme Court's decision in Beckles v. United States, ___ U.S.___, 137 S.Ct. 886 (Mar. 6, 2017).

         DISCUSSION

         Deboles contends his sentence was improperly enhanced pursuant to the residual clause of the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“the Guidelines”) and that his Hobbs Act robbery conviction no longer qualifies as a predicate “crime of violence” to support his conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). For both arguments, Deboles relies upon the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson, which found the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), (the “ACCA”) unconstitutionally vague.

         The Government asserts the Supreme Court's decision in Beckles forecloses Deboles' argument that his sentence was unconstitutionally enhanced pursuant to the Sentencing Guidelines' career offender provision. Next, the Government asserts the Johnson decision has no effect on Deboles' enhanced sentence under the ACCA because his predicate Hobbs Act robbery conviction does not fall under the ACCA's residual clause.

         I. Whether Johnson Applies to Deboles' Sentence Enhancement Pursuant to the Sentencing Guidelines

         Deboles moves under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 for resentencing pursuant to Johnson. In Johnson, the Supreme Court held that “imposing an increased sentence under the residual clause of the ACCA violates the Constitution's guarantee of due process[.]”___ U.S. at___, 135 S.Ct. 2551, 2563. The ACCA provides enhanced penalties for defendants who are (1) convicted of being felons in possession of firearms in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) and (2) have “three prior convictions . . . for a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1) (emphasis added). The residual clause of the ACCA defines “violent felony” as, inter alia, a felony that “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” Id. at § 924(e)(2)(B) (emphasis added). In Johnson, the Supreme Court found the “residual clause” so vague as to violate due process. See 135 S.Ct. at 2557. The crux of Deboles' first assertion is that he no longer qualifies for an enhanced sentence under the residual clause of the Sentencing Guidelines in light of the Johnson decision.

         The “crime of violence” definition contained within the Sentencing Guidelines' career offender enhancement provision is identical to the residual clause language found unconstitutional in Johnson. U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2). Despite this similarity, the Supreme Court held in Beckles that the holding of the Johnson decision does not apply to the residual clause of the Sentencing Guidelines. In Beckles, the petitioner was arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). “Due to multiple prior felonies, Beckles['] violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) subjected him to the enhanced penalty provision of 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1)[, ] and the district court found him to be an armed career criminal pursuant to that statute.” United States v. Beckles, 565 F.3d 832, 841 (11th Cir. 2009). “This finding, in turn, qualified Beckles for a sentence enhancement under [Section 4B1.4 of the Sentencing Guidelines].” Id. Section 4B1.4 of the Sentencing Guidelines “instructs that the appropriate offense level is . . . [inter alia] the offense level described in § 4B1.1, if applicable.” Id. at 841- 42. “Section 4B1.1, in turn, applies if:

(1) the defendant was at least eighteen years old at the time the defendant committed the instant offense of conviction; (2) the instant offense of conviction is a felony that is either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense; and (3) the defendant has at least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense.

Id. at p. 842 (citing U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(a) (emphasis supplied)). The term “crime of violence” includes “any offense under . . . state law, punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, that . . . involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a). “At [Beckles'] sentencing, the district court found that § 4B1.1 was applicable . . . reasoning that two of Beckles['] prior felony convictions were for qualified controlled substances offenses, and the current 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) conviction [for being a felon in possession of a firearm] was for a ‘crime of violence'” Id.

         In Beckles' subsequent Section 2255 Motion, he “claimed that he was improperly sentenced as a career offender under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1, [arguing that] his conviction for possession of a sawed-off shotgun was not a ‘crime of violence.'” Beckles v. United States, 579 F. App'x 833, 833 (11th Cir. 2014), vacated, Beckles v. United States, ___ U.S.___, 137 S.Ct. 886 (Mar. 6, 2017). The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied Beckles' Section 2255 Motion, finding Johnson inapplicable to the Sentencing Guidelines. Beckles subsequently filed a petition for certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, again contending that the Sentencing Guidelines' residual clause is void for vagueness under Johnson. The Supreme Court granted certiorari and affirmed the decision of the Eleventh Circuit, holding that “the advisory Sentencing Guidelines, including § 4B1.2(a)'s residual clause, are not subject to a challenge under the void-for-vagueness doctrine.” Beckles, ___ U.S. at___, 137 S.Ct. at 896. The Court reasoned that, unlike the ACCA, “[t]he advisory Guidelines [ ] do not implicate the twin concerns underlying vagueness doctrine-providing notice and preventing arbitrary enforcement.”[1] Beckles, ___ U.S. at____, 137 S.Ct. at 894. The Court further distinguished the Guidelines from the ACCA because the ACCA requires sentencing courts to increase a defendant's prison term from a statutory maximum of 10 years to a minimum of 15 years, whereas the Guidelines are advisory. Id. at 892. Therefore, although the Sentencing Guidelines' residual clause and the ACCA's residual clause are identical, the Sentencing Guidelines are not subject to a void-for-vagueness challenge under Johnson because the Guidelines “merely guide the district courts' discretion[.]” Id. at 894.

         The United States Supreme Court's decision in Beckles forecloses Deboles' argument that he was improperly sentenced as a career offender under the Sentencing Guidelines. As a result, the ...


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