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United States v. Hubert

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

February 28, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL ST. HUBERT, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida D.C. Docket No. 1:15-cr-20621-FAM-1

          Before MARCUS, ANDERSON and HULL, Circuit Judges.

          HULL, Circuit Judge:

         On February 16, 2016, Michael St. Hubert pled guilty to two counts of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during, in relation to, and in furtherance of a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). The district court sentenced St. Hubert to 84 months' imprisonment for the first § 924(c) conviction and 300 consecutive months' imprisonment for the second § 924(c) conviction. St. Hubert appeals his § 924(c) convictions and sentences claiming his predicate Hobbs Act robbery and attempted robbery do not constitute crimes of violence under either the risk-of-force (residual) clause in § 924(c)(3)(B) or the use-of-force clause in § 924(c)(3)(A).

         After careful review and with the benefit of oral argument, we affirm both convictions and sentences.

         I. BACKGROUND FACTS

         A. Indictment

         On August 11, 2015, St. Hubert was indicted on thirteen counts in connection with a series of five robberies and one attempted robbery committed in southern Florida between December 23, 2014 and January 27, 2015. Counts 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 contained the six robbery counts. Five counts charged that St. Hubert committed a Hobbs Act robbery, and one count charged an attempted robbery, all in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(b).

         Counts 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 were § 924(c) firearm counts and charged St. Hubert with knowingly using, carrying, and possessing a firearm during, in relation to, and in furtherance of a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). Each § 924(c) firearm count specifically identified and charged that the predicate crime of violence was one of five Hobbs Act robberies or the attempted Hobbs Act robbery charged in the six substantive robbery counts. Each § 924(c) firearm count also charged St. Hubert with brandishing the firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii).

         Count 13 charged St. Hubert with knowingly possessing a firearm and ammunition after having been previously convicted of a felony, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).

         Ultimately, St. Hubert pled guilty to the two § 924(c) firearm counts contained in Counts 8 and 12. Therefore, only Counts 8 and 12 (the firearm offenses), which expressly incorporated as predicates the robberies in Counts 7 and 11, are relevant to this appeal. We set out the allegations in those counts.

         More specifically, Count 8 charged that St. Hubert used and carried a firearm during the Hobbs Act robbery in Count 7, stating that St. Hubert:

did knowingly use and carry a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and did knowingly possess a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, an offense for which the defendant may be prosecuted in a court of the United States, specifically, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1951(a), as alleged in Count 7 of this Indictment, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(c)(1)(A).
Pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(c)(1)(A)(ii), it is further alleged that the firearm was brandished.

         In turn, Count 7 charged that St. Hubert committed the Hobbs Act robbery of an AutoZone store in Hollywood, Florida on January 21, 2015, stating St. Hubert:

did knowingly obstruct, delay, and affect commerce and the movement of articles and commodities in commerce, by means of robbery, as the terms "commerce" and "robbery" are defined in Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1951(b)(1) and (b)(3), in that the defendant did take property from the person and in the presence of persons employed by AutoZone, located at 1513 North State Road 7, Hollywood, Florida 33021, a business and company operating in interstate and foreign commerce, against the will of those persons, by means of actual and threatened force, violence, and fear of injury to said persons, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1951(a).

(emphasis added).

         Count 12 charged that St. Hubert used and carried a firearm on January 27, 2015 during the attempted Hobbs Act robbery in Count 11, stating that St. Hubert:

did knowingly use and carry a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and did knowingly possess a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, an offense for which the defendant may be prosecuted in a court of the United States, specifically, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1951(a), as alleged in Count 11 of this Indictment, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(c)(1)(A).
Pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(c)(1)(A)(ii), it is further alleged that the firearm was brandished.

         Count 11, in turn, charged that St. Hubert committed the attempted Hobbs Act robbery of an AutoZone store in Miami, Florida on January 27, 2015, stating that St. Hubert:

did knowingly attempt to obstruct, delay, and affect commerce and the movement of articles and commodities in commerce, by means of robbery, as the terms "commerce" and "robbery" are defined in Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1951(b)(1) and (b)(3), in that the defendant did attempt to take property from the person and in the presence of persons employed by AutoZone, located at 59 N.E. 79th Street, Miami, Florida 33138, a business and company operating in interstate and foreign commerce, against the will of those persons, by means of actual and threatened force, violence, and fear of injury to said persons, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1951(a).

(emphasis added).

         B. Motion to Dismiss Indictment

         On December 22, 2015, St. Hubert filed a motion to dismiss the § 924(c) firearm counts in his indictment. St. Hubert's motion argued that "[t]he 924(c) Counts fail to state an offense because the Hobbs Act charges upon which they are predicated do not qualify as 'crime[s] of violence': Hobbs Act 'robbery' does not fall within the definition of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)'s 'force clause, ' and § 924(c)'s residual clause is unconstitutionally vague under Johnson v. United States, U.S., 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015)." The district court denied St. Hubert's motion.

         C. Guilty Plea Colloquy Outlined the Offense Conduct

         Subsequently, during a February 16, 2016 hearing, pursuant to a written plea agreement, St. Hubert pled guilty to Counts 8 and 12, both § 924(c) firearm crimes, in exchange for dismissal of the other eleven counts. The predicate crimes in Counts 8 and 12, respectively, were the Hobbs Act robbery on January 21 and the attempted Hobbs Act robbery on January 27. We recount the offense conduct which St. Hubert admitted during his plea colloquy.

         On January 21, 2015, St. Hubert robbed with a firearm an AutoZone store located at North State Road 7 in Hollywood, Florida. At approximately 8:00 p.m., St. Hubert entered the store wearing a gray and yellow striped hoodie. St. Hubert brandished a firearm and directed three store employees to the rear of the store. St. Hubert demanded that the employees place money from the store's safe inside one of the store's plastic bags and threatened to shoot them. Approximately $2, 300 was stolen during the robbery. Two of the three employees subsequently identified St. Hubert in a six-person photographic array.

         On January 27, 2015, St. Hubert attempted to rob with a firearm a different AutoZone store located at 59 Northeast 79th Street in Miami, Florida. At approximately 7:00 p.m., St. Hubert entered the store wearing a gray Old Navy hoodie. St. Hubert proceeded to hold a firearm against the side of one employee and directed a second employee to open the store safe.

         As this was occurring, the second employee noticed a City of Miami Police Department vehicle outside the store and ran out of the door to request help. St. Hubert then fled in a blue Mercury sedan which was registered in his name and to his home address. A subsequent car chase led law enforcement officials to St. Hubert, who was arrested at his residence. Both AutoZone employees later identified St. Hubert in a showup.

         During subsequent valid and authorized searches of St. Hubert's residence, law enforcement officers located both the gray and yellow striped hoodie worn by St. Hubert during the January 21st robbery, and the gray Old Navy hoodie worn by St. Hubert during the January 27th attempted robbery. DNA recovered from both hoodies matched St. Hubert's DNA. During the execution of a search warrant for St. Hubert's vehicle, law enforcement officials located a firearm and ammunition.[1]

         During the plea colloquy, the district court also recited the firearm charge set forth in Count 8 and explained that the predicate crime of violence was St. Hubert's AutoZone robbery charged in Count 7. The district court also recited the firearm charge set forth in Count 12 and explained that the predicate crime of violence was his attempted AutoZone robbery charged in Count 11. St. Hubert confirmed that he understood the charges and that he was pleading guilty to both Counts 8 and 12. St. Hubert also affirmed that he was pleading guilty because he was in fact guilty. The district court found that St. Hubert's guilty plea was freely and voluntarily entered, accepted his guilty plea and found him guilty.

          D. Sentencing

         On February 16, 2016, the district court sentenced St. Hubert to 84 months' imprisonment on Count 8 and to 300 consecutive months' imprisonment on Count 12.

         St. Hubert timely appealed.

         II. WAIVER BY GUILTY PLEA

         On appeal, St. Hubert asks the Court to vacate his convictions and sentences. He does not dispute that he committed the Hobbs Act robbery and attempted robbery of the AutoZone stores and used a firearm in doing so. St. Hubert also does not challenge the validity of his guilty plea. Rather, St. Hubert contends that Hobbs Act robbery and attempted robbery do not qualify as crimes of violence under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), and therefore he pled guilty to what he terms a non-offense.

         In response, the government argues that St. Hubert waived those claims when he knowingly and voluntarily pled guilty to Counts 8 and 12. St. Hubert counters that his § 924(c) claim is jurisdictional and thus not waivable. At the outset, we point out that St. Hubert's appeal actually raises two distinct claims, one constitutional and the other statutory in nature.

         St. Hubert's constitutional claim involves § 924(c)(3)(B). St. Hubert's constitutional claim is that: (1) § 924(c)(3)(B)'s residual clause definition of crime of violence is unconstitutionally vague in light of Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S. _, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015); and (2) thus that unconstitutional part of the statute cannot be used to convict him.

         St. Hubert's statutory claim involves § 924(c)(3)(A). Specifically, St. Hubert says that Hobbs Act robbery and attempted robbery categorically do not qualify as crimes of violence under the other statutory definition of crime of violence in § 924(c)(3)(A)'s use-of-force clause. Consequently, before we can address the merits of St. Hubert's § 924(c) claims, we must first determine whether St. Hubert has waived them.[2]

         A. Constitutional Challenge to ...


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