951 F.2d 586 (4th Cir. 1991), 90-5203, United States v. Wilson

Docket Nº:90-5203.
Citation:951 F.2d 586
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Larry WILSON, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:December 03, 1991
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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951 F.2d 586 (4th Cir. 1991)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Larry WILSON, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 90-5203.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

December 3, 1991

Argued Oct. 4, 1991.

Beth Mina Farber, Asst. Federal Defender, Baltimore, Md., argued (Fred Warren Bennett, Federal Public Defender, Baltimore, Md., on the brief), for defendant-appellant.

Christine Manuelian, Asst. U.S. Atty., Baltimore, Md., argued (Richard D. Bennett, U.S. Atty., Baltimore, Md., on the brief), for plaintiff-appellee.

Before ERVIN, Chief Judge, WILKINSON, Circuit Judge, and MICHAEL, District Judge for the Western District of Virginia, sitting by designation.

OPINION

WILKINSON, Circuit Judge:

This case concerns the treatment of predicate offenses under the career offender provision of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. The sentence enhancements of the career offender provision apply only if a defendant has at least two prior felony convictions of either a "crime of violence" or a "controlled substance offense." U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. Appellant contends that his 1976 robbery conviction cannot be a crime of violence for purposes of the career offender provision because the actual conduct for which he was convicted amounted

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to nothing more than a pickpocketing. We think the Guidelines mandate a categorical approach to the offense rather than a particularized inquiry into the facts underlying the conviction. Under this categorical approach, appellant's robbery conviction is a violent crime qualifying him for career offender status under the Guidelines.

I.

On October 24, 1989, the Grand Jury for the District of Maryland charged Larry Wilson with four counts of bank robbery and four counts of bank larceny in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a), (b), and (f) and 18 U.S.C. § 2. Wilson initially pleaded not guilty to all counts of the indictment. Subsequently, the government notified defense counsel that it planned to seek the sentence enhancements available under the career offender provision of the Sentencing Guidelines. U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. Wilson then requested a pre-trial determination of whether he qualified as a "career offender." The district court held two separate hearings on that matter. At issue during the hearings was whether Wilson's 1976 robbery conviction qualified as a predicate "crime of violence" under the Guidelines. Wilson admitted that he had pleaded guilty in 1976 in Maryland state court to the crime of robbery and that he had received a four-year sentence for that crime. He argued, however, that that offense was not a crime of violence because the actual conduct involved was more in the nature of a pickpocketing than a robbery. The district court found that the 1976 robbery qualified as a predicate crime of violence irrespective of the facts and circumstances of the offense.

After the district court's ruling, Wilson pleaded guilty to count five of the indictment, which charged him with robbery of Vermont Federal Savings and Loan on September 7, 1989. At the subsequent sentencing hearing, the district court sentenced Wilson as a career offender. Pursuant to the career offender provision, the court calculated Wilson's base offense level at 32 with a criminal history category of VI. After granting Wilson a two-level downward adjustment for acceptance of responsibility, the court sentenced Wilson to 168 months' incarceration, a sentence at the low end of the applicable sentencing range.

Wilson appeals from the district court's decision to count his 1976 robbery conviction as a predicate crime of violence.

II.

Wilson asks us to examine all the facts and circumstances of his 1976 robbery conviction in order to determine whether it is a crime of violence. After examining the relevant Guideline language and the applicable precedent, we do not think that such an inquiry is permitted. 1

A.

Section 4B1.1 of the Guidelines provides sentence enhancements for any defendant who qualifies as a "career offender." Under that provision, a defendant is a career offender if "(1) the defendant was at least eighteen years old at the time of the instant offense, (2) the instant offense of conviction is a felony that is either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense, and (3) the defendant has at least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense." Larry Wilson was over eighteen at the time of the instant bank robbery and the instant offense is clearly a crime of violence. The only issue in this case is whether Wilson's 1976 robbery conviction qualifies as a felony conviction of a crime of violence. Under the plain language of the Guidelines, we conclude that Wilson's robbery offense constitutes a "crime of violence" and that we need not--indeed,

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must...

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