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Edwards v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

April 28, 2017

Antron Demond Edwards, Movant
United States of America, Respondent.


          Robert N.ScoIa, Jr., United States District Judge

         This case was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Alicia M. Otazo-Reyes for a ruling on all pre-trial, nondispositive matters and for a report and recommendation on any dispositive matters, consistent with 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Magistrate Judge Rule 1. After holding a hearing, Judge Otazo-Reyes issued a report, recommending that Petitioner Antron Demond Edwards's motion to vacate his sentence be granted. (Rep. & Rec., ECF No. 19, 1.) The Government filed objections to one of the sections of Judge Otazo-Reyes's report. (Gov.'s Obj. to Sec. 6, ECF No. 21, 1.) Edwards, represented by counsel, neither objected to the report nor responded to the Government's objections. After a de novo review, the Court accepts in part and rejects in part the magistrate judge's report and recommendation and denies Edwards's motion (ECF No. 1).

         1. Background

         Edwards was charged, in 2014, with three counts related to an armed robbery of a McDonald's restaurant committed in December 2013. He pleaded guilty to one of the counts: possession of ammunition by a convicted felon. The Government dismissed the remaining counts of Hobbs Act robbery and the use of a firearm during the commission of a crime. Under the Armed Career Criminal Act, the Court found Edwards to be subject to a fifteen-year minimum mandatory sentence and sentenced him to 180 months, followed by five years of supervised released. In doing so, the Court relied on the following prior convictions in applying the ACCA to Edwards's sentence: burglary; fleeing and eluding through a high-speed chase; first degree arson; possession with intent to sell or deliver cocaine (two separate convictions: a 1998 case and a 2005 case); and burglary of an unoccupied structure. (Mot. to Vacate, ECF No. 1, 10; Presentence Inv. Rep. ¶ 17, ECF No. 31 in United States v. Edwards, Case No. 1:14-cr-20130-RNS (S.D. Fla. 2014).)

         On June 24, 2016, Edwards filed the instant motion to vacate, contending that his fifteen-year minimum-mandatory sentence has been rendered illegal by the United States Supreme Court's ruling that the ACCA's residual clause is unconstitutionally vague. Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015).

         2. Legal Framework

         Under the ACCA, a defendant found guilty of possession of ammunition by a convicted felon and who has three previous convictions for a violent felony or a serious drug offense must be imprisoned for at least fifteen years. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). “Violent felony, ” in turn, is defined as any crime punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year 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.

18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B). The first prong of this definition is referred to as the “elements clause”; the second prong contains the “enumerated-crimes clause” and the “residual clause.” United States v. Owens, 672 F.3d 966, 968 (11th Cir. 2012).

         On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court held in Johnson that the residual clause, referring to a felony that “presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another, ” is unconstitutionally vague because it creates uncertainty about how to evaluate the risks posed by a crime and how much risk it takes to qualify as a violent felony. Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 2557- 58, 2563. The Johnson Court specifically did not call into question the application of either the elements clause or the enumerated crimes clause. Id. at 2563. Ten months later the Supreme Court held, in Welch v. United States, that Johnson announced a new substantive rule that applies retroactively to cases on collateral review. 136 S.Ct. 1257, 1264-65 (2016).

         The Government concedes that, after Johnson, Edwards's two burglary convictions and his conviction for fleeing and eluding do not qualify as predicate convictions under the ACCA. Edwards, moreover, acknowledges that his two drug convictions do qualify as predicate convictions. The Government also agrees that Edwards's arson conviction does not satisfy the ACCA's elements clause. Thus the sole dispute between the parties is whether Edwards's arson conviction falls within the enumerated crimes clause thereby constituting the third predicate prior conviction required for imposition of the ACCA's fifteen-year minimum-mandatory sentence.

         3. Discussion

         Edwards has not objected to Judge Otazo-Reyes's report and recommendation; and the Government does not object to the majority of it. Despite the absence of objections to most of the report, the Court nonetheless has reviewed the entirety of Judge Otazo-Reyes's report de novo. After doing so, the Court adopts those unobjected to portions of Judge Otazo-Reyes's findings and conclusions that set forth the analysis that should be applied to ...

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