984 F.2d 21 (1st Cir. 1993), 92-1549, United States v. De Jesus

Docket Nº:92-1549.
Citation:984 F.2d 21
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Carlos DE JESUS, Defendant, Appellant.
Case Date:January 27, 1993
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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984 F.2d 21 (1st Cir. 1993)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,


Carlos DE JESUS, Defendant, Appellant.

No. 92-1549.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

January 27, 1993

Heard Jan. 5, 1993.

Annemarie Hassett, Federal Defender Office, Boston, MA, for defendant, appellant.

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Frank A. Libby, Jr., Asst. U.S. Atty., with whom A. John Pappalardo, U.S. Atty., Boston, MA, on brief, for the U.S.

Before TORRUELLA, SELYA and STAHL, Circuit Judges.

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

In this appeal, we consider whether larceny from the person is a crime of violence within the meaning of the federal sentencing guidelines. Because we answer that question affirmatively, defendant's prior conviction for that crime qualifies as a predicate offense, requiring that we affirm his enhanced sentence as a career offender.


The career offender guideline elevates the sentencing range of a defendant who, being at least eighteen years old and having previously been convicted of "at least 2 prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense," is found guilty of a federal felony that is itself either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense. U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. 1 On January 21, 1992, defendant-appellant Carlos De Jesus pled guilty to federal narcotics offenses in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846, 860(a) (1988) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (1988). In the presentence investigation report (PSI Report), the probation officer recommended that appellant be sentenced as a career offender. In support of the predicate offense requirement, the PSI Report limned five prior offenses, viz., a conviction for possession of heroin with intent to distribute, two diversionary dispositions for assault and battery that were placed on file without a finding of guilt, a diversionary disposition for assault and battery that was placed on file after a finding of guilt, and a conviction for larceny from the person. 2

At sentencing, the district court adopted the PSI Report's recommendation, branded appellant a career offender, and set the guideline sentencing range (GSR) at 210-262 months. 3 The court then granted a government motion filed pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1 and departed downward in tribute to appellant's substantial assistance, sentencing him to a 60-month term of incarceration.

Appellant objects to his classification as a career offender. He acknowledges that his conviction for possessing heroin with intent to distribute is a countable predicate offense, but protests that there is no other. Thus, he claims that the government failed to show the requisite pair of predicate offenses.


Although the lower court determined that De Jesus was a career offender, it made no express finding as to which of his past escapades constituted predicate offenses within the meaning of U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. Because appellant admits the incidence of one predicate offense (for peddling heroin), our sole task is to determine whether the record supports the sentencing court's implicit finding of a second predicate offense. 4 We approach this task with an awareness that, so long as any one of the other dispositions catalogued in the PSI

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Report qualifies under the career offender rubric, De Jesus's appeal founders.


Because we believe it is relatively clearcut, we turn first to the issue of whether appellant's conviction for larceny from the person constitutes a predicate offense. Appellant claims that this conviction cannot trigger career offender status because the crime charged, a violation of Mass.Gen.L. ch. 266, § 25(b) (1990), does not constitute a crime of violence within the meaning of the sentencing guidelines. We do not agree.

The Sentencing Commission has defined a crime of violence as a federal or state offense punishable by imprisonment for more than 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 of a dwelling, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.

U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(1). A formal categorical approach--an approach that looks to a prior offense's statutory provenance rather than to its actual facts--is the method of choice for determining whether a felony constitutes a targeted crime within the meaning of this definition. See United States v. Fiore, 983 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir.1992); United States v. Bell, 966 F.2d 703, 704 (1st Cir.1992); accord U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2, comment (n. 2) (directing judicial inquiry to "the conduct set forth (i.e., expressly charged) in the count of which the defendant was convicted"); cf. Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, 600, 110 S.Ct. 2143, 2159, 109 L.Ed.2d 607 (1990) (adopting categorical approach for similar definitional inquiries under the Armed Career Criminal Act); United States v. Doe, 960 F.2d 221, 223-24 (1st Cir.1992) (same). Thus, rather than examining the actual circumstances underlying the earlier conviction, we examine only the statutory formulation of the crime charged (here, larceny from the person) to see if that crime is a crime of violence for purposes of the career offender guideline. 5


The state statute in question authorizes a prison term of up to five years for one who "steal[s] from the person of another." Mass.Gen.L. ch. 266, § 25(b). Massachusetts law makes clear that, in order to satisfy "the essential elements" of the statutory definition, the taking need not be from the victim's person so long as it is "from the presence of the victim," that is, from "within his area of control." Commonwealth v. Subilosky, 352 Mass. 153, 166, 224 N.E.2d 197, 206 (1967) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Using this rendition of Massachusetts law as a doctrinal springboard, appellant argues that his earlier conviction was not for a "crime of violence" as that term is defined in the career offender guideline.

Appellant's argument has some superficial allure. Because actual or threatened use of force is not an element of the offense in Massachusetts, larceny from the person does not fit within subsection (i) of U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(1). The puzzle, however, is not so easily...

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