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United States v. Grant

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Tallahassee Division

June 19, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JAMES CURTIS GRANT, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING THE § 2255 MOTION

          ROBERT L. HINKLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The defendant James Curtis Grant has moved for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 based on Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). This order denies the motion.

         I

         Johnson addressed the armed career criminal act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). The act applies to a defendant who is convicted of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and who has three or more prior convictions of a violent felony or serious drug offense. Johnson held unconstitutionally vague part of the definition of a violent felony-the part sometimes referred to as the “residual clause.”

         Mr. Grant pleaded guilty to three offenses: a drug conspiracy, possessing a firearm in furtherance of the drug offense in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). He was sentenced in February 2016 based on the career-offender guideline. See U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 4B1.1 (2015). The sentence was 360 months, the low end of the guideline range, on the drug offense; 120 months, the statutory maximum, on the 922(g) offense, to be served concurrently; and 60 months consecutive, the statutory minimum, on the 924(c) offense. Mr. Grant was not treated as an armed career criminal under § 924(e).

         In short, Johnson does not apply to Mr. Grant's conviction or sentence. He is not entitled to relief.

         II

         Mr. Grant was treated as a career offender under United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 4B1.1. A career offender must have at least two prior convictions of a crime of violence or drug trafficking offense. The definition of a crime of violence is set out in § 4B1.2. At the time of sentencing, the definition included a residual clause similar to the one that Johnson held unconstitutional.

         This does not entitle Mr. Grant to relief. In Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017), the Supreme Court held that the vagueness principle underlying Johnson does not apply to the Sentencing Guidelines. Applying the career-offender residual clause to Mr. Grant was not unconstitutional.

         III

         United States Sentencing Guidelines Amendment 798 has changed the career-offender definition of a crime of violence to eliminate the residual clause. If Mr. Grant was sentenced today, he would not be treated as a career offender. But Mr. Grant's sentence cannot be changed based on Amendment 798.

         Under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c), a district court “may not modify a term of imprisonment once it has been imposed, ” subject to specific exceptions. The only exception dealing with guideline amendments provides:

[I]n the case of a defendant who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission . . . the court may reduce the term of imprisonment, after considering the factors set forth in section 3553(a) to the extent that they are applicable, if such a reduction is ...

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