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United States v. Baugus

United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division

April 7, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent,
v.
JACKSON BRYANT BAUGUS, Defendant/Movant.

          ORDER DENYING § 2255 MOTION AND GRANTING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          Susan P. Watters United States District Court Judge

         This case comes before the Court on Defendant Baugus's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Baugus is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se.

         I. Background

         On December 3, 2003, a jury convicted Baugus of two counts of possessing methamphetamine and cocaine with intent to distribute it, a violation of 21 U.S.C, § 841(a)(1) (Counts 1 and 2); one count of carjacking, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2119(1) (Count 3); and one count of using or carrying and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to carjacking, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) and (ii) (Count 4). He was acquitted of two other drug counts. On March 12, 2004, he was sentenced to serve 235 months on Counts 1 and 2 and 180 months on Count 3, plus a consecutive seven-year term on Count 4, for a total sentence of 319 months.

         Minutes (Doc. 103); Judgment (Doc. 104) at 2. On August 10, 2005, the Court of Appeals affirmed Baugus's conviction and remanded the sentence based on United States v. Ameline, 409 F.3d 1073 (9th Cir. 2005) (en banc). The sentencing judge confirmed the sentence, and on May 3, 2006, the Court of Appeals affirmed the sentence. See Mem. (Doc. 155) at 2, United States v. Baugus, No. 05-30618 (9th Cir. May 3, 2006).

         Baugus now seeks relief under the United States Supreme Court's recent decision in Johnson v. United States, __ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). See also Welch v. United States, __ U.S.__, 136 S.Ct. 1257, 1265 (2016) (holding that Johnson applies to cases already final when it was issued). His motion, filed pro se, purports to challenge his sentence under the Sentencing Guidelines. His argument is well off the mark. His sentences on Counts 1, 2, and 3 did not take firearms into account, see Presentence Report ¶¶ 77, 86, and his § 924(c) conviction was not governed by any guideline.

         But Baugus asserts that "imposing an increased sentence under the § 924(c) enhancement violates his Due Process Rights because the clause is 'unconstitutionally' vague." Mot. § 2255 (Doc. 261) at 11. The Court will liberally construe Baugus's motion to make the only argument available-that is, that his conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) and (ii) rested exclusively on the definition of a "crime of violence" in the "residual clause" of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B), and that clause is unconstitutionally vague in light of Johnson.

         II. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)

         In Johnson, the Court considered the meaning of a provision in the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). The ACCA imposes a harsher sentence on a person convicted of a firearms offense if the person has three prior convictions for a violent felony or controlled substance offense. The Act defines a "violent felony" as a felony 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). Johnson discussed only the italicized clause, commonly called the "residual" clause.

         The Supreme Court found the residual clause so vague that it deprived defendants of fair notice of the consequences of their decisions and so loose that it invited arbitrary enforcement by sentencing judges. Therefore, the decision held, federal sentencing courts may no longer enhance a defendant's sentence based on a prior conviction when that conviction qualifies as a "violent felony" only under the residual clause. See Johnson, 135 U.S. at 2555-60, 2563. Johnson did not address either subsection (i) or the first line of subsection (ii) in § 924(e)(2)(B). Those provisions remain valid law.

         III. 18 ...


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