629 F.3d 432 (4th Cir. 2011), 08-4889, United States v. Peterson

Docket Nº:08-4889.
Citation:629 F.3d 432
Opinion Judge:NIEMEYER, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. John Anthony PETERSON, Defendant-Appellant.
Attorney:Slade Culli Trabucco, The Trabucco Law Firm, PA, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant. Kristine L. Fritz, Office of the United States Attorney, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee. George E.B. Holding, United States Attorney, Anne M. Hayes, Jennifer P. May-Parker, Assistant United States Atto...
Judge Panel:Before NIEMEYER, MOTZ, and GREGORY, Circuit Judges. Vacated and remanded by published opinion. Judge NIEMEYER wrote the opinion, in which Judge MOTZ and Judge GREGORY joined.
Case Date:January 14, 2011
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 432

629 F.3d 432 (4th Cir. 2011)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

John Anthony PETERSON, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 08-4889.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

January 14, 2011

Argued: Sept. 24, 2010.

Page 433

ARGUED:

Slade Culli Trabucco, The Trabucco Law Firm, PA, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant.

Kristine L. Fritz, Office of the United States Attorney, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

George E.B. Holding, United States Attorney, Anne M. Hayes, Jennifer P. May-Parker, Assistant United States Attorneys, Office of the United States Attorney, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.

Before NIEMEYER, MOTZ, and GREGORY, Circuit Judges.

Vacated and remanded by published opinion. Judge NIEMEYER wrote the opinion, in which Judge MOTZ and Judge GREGORY joined.

OPINION

NIEMEYER, Circuit Judge:

After a jury convicted John Peterson on six counts of drug trafficking and firearms charges, the district court sentenced him to 420 months' imprisonment. In making its sentencing decision, the district court found that Peterson was a career offender under U.S. S.G. § 4B1.1(a), because he had two prior felony convictions of a crime of violence, one of which was a North Carolina conviction for involuntary manslaughter.

Peterson contends that his North Carolina manslaughter conviction was not a crime of violence, as defined in U.S. S.G. § 4B1.2(a) and that, therefore, he should not have been sentenced as a career offender.

We agree. Because Peterson's prior involuntary manslaughter conviction did not have any requirement of intent or mens rea, we conclude that it was not a crime of violence, as defined by U.S. S.G. § 4B1.2(a). Accordingly, we vacate Peterson's sentence and remand for resentencing.

I

A jury convicted Peterson in April 2008 of (1) conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S. C. § 846; (2) distribution of more than five grams of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S. C. § 841(a)(1); (3) distribution of more than 50 grams of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S. C. § 841(a)(1); (4) possession of more than 50 grams of crack cocaine and quantities of cocaine powder, marijuana, and MDMA (" Ecstasy" ) with the intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S. C. § 841(a)(1); (5) possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, in violation of 18 U.S. C. § 924(c); and (6) unlawful possession of firearms by a felon, in violation of 18 U.S. C. § 921(g)(1).

In calculating Peterson's sentencing range for counts 1 through 4 and 6, the district court found that Peterson was a career offender, based on two prior convictions,

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one of which was a North Carolina conviction in 2001 for involuntary manslaughter. That conviction arose from an incident in which Peterson accidentally shot his close friend, William Reid, while the two were playing with what they believed (mistakenly) was an unloaded pistol. Overruling Peterson's objection to use of this conviction, the district court determined that the Guidelines sentencing range for these counts was 360 months to life imprisonment. The sentence for Count 5 was an additional, consecutive 60 months' imprisonment.

If the North Carolina conviction had not been used as a predicate offense under U.S. S.G. § 4B1.1(a), Peterson's Guidelines range would have been 168 to 210 months' imprisonment for Counts 1 through 4 and 6 and 60 consecutive months' imprisonment for Count 5.

The district court acknowledged that use of the North Carolina involuntary manslaughter conviction presented a " close call," but the court determined that it was bound by our decision in United States v. Payton, 28 F.3d 17 (4th Cir.1994), holding that a South Carolina conviction for involuntary manslaughter qualified as a predicate crime of violence under the predecessor to U.S. S.G. § 4B1.2(a).

The court sentenced Peterson to 420 months' imprisonment, which included concurrent 360-month terms of imprisonment on Counts 1 through 4, a concurrent 120-month sentence on Count 6, and a consecutive 60-month sentence on Count 5.

This appeal followed.

II

Peterson contends that his prior North Carolina conviction for involuntary manslaughter does not qualify as a " crime of violence," as defined by U.S. S.G. § 4B1.2(a), so as to make him a career offender under § 4B1.1(a). He argues that our 1994 decision in Payton, on which the district court relied, was implicitly overruled by the Supreme Court's 2008 decision in Begay v. United States, 553 U.S. 137, 144-45, 128 S.Ct. 1581, 170 L.Ed.2d 490 (2008), holding that a conviction for a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act (" ACCA" ), 18 U.S. C. § 924(e), had to involve conduct that was " purposeful, violent, and aggressive." He asserts that a North Carolina conviction for involuntary manslaughter was categorically not purposeful.

The government argues that Payton is still binding precedent and that Begay construed ACCA, not the Sentencing Guidelines, which have their own binding interpretive rubrics. Because Application Note 1 to U.S. S.G. § 4B1.2(a) includes " manslaughter" as a " crime of violence," without distinguishing voluntary from involuntary manslaughter, the government contends that Peterson's involuntary manslaughter conviction qualifies as a predicate offense, making him a career offender under U.S. S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2).[*]

Because resolution of the issue involves interpretation of the Sentencing Guidelines, we begin with the text. The Guidelines provide for a sentencing enhancement if the defendant is a " career offender." U.S. S.G. § 4B1.1(a). A career offender is defined as a defendant (1) who is " at least eighteen years old at the time the defendant committed the instant offense of conviction" ; (2) whose instant offense is " a felony that is either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense" ; and (3) who " has at

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least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense." U.S. S.G. § 4B1.1(a) (emphasis added). The term " crime of violence" is, in turn, defined in § 4B1.2(a) as follows:

The term " crime of violence" means any offense under federal or state law, punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, that-

(1) has as an element the use, attempted use, or...

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