Starks v. United States

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
Citation516 F.Supp.3d 762
Decision Date02 February 2021
Docket NumberCrim. No. 3:15-cr-00147-5, 3:16-cr-00142-2,No. 3:20-cv-00311,3:20-cv-00311
Parties Calvin D. STARKS, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES of America, Respondent.

516 F.Supp.3d 762

Calvin D. STARKS, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES of America, Respondent.

No. 3:20-cv-00311
No. 3:15-cr-00147-5, 3:16-cr-00142-2

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division.

Filed February 2, 2021

516 F.Supp.3d 764

Henry Alan Martin, Michael C. Holley, Federal Public Defender's Office, Nashville, TN, for Petitioner.

Brent Adams Hannafan, Rascoe S. Dean, U.S. Attorney's Office (Nashville Office) Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville, TN, for Respondent.



516 F.Supp.3d 765
"The question in this case is whether an attempted robbery in violation of the federal Hobbs Act qualifies as a crime of violence. ... My initial take was that an attempted robbery must surely qualify as a crime of violence. After all, a robbery is the paradigm of a violent crime.... Why should a failed or attempted robbery be treated any differently? ... Or so I thought until the law got in the way."1

Calvin D. Starks’ Amended Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence in Accordance With 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. No. 9) asks this Court to grapple with that question, assuming he can get around the Government's assertion in its Response (Doc. No. 13) that he has waived his right to present his claims by virtue of his plea agreement. To place these nettlesome issues and others in perspective, a bit of background is necessary.

I. Factual Background and Procedural Posture

As is too often the case in south Nashville, Tennessee, the J.C. Napier community was the subject of gun violence in the Fall of 2014. Starks and his associates were an integral part of that violence. In both his plea agreement and plea colloquy (Case No. 3:16-cr-142 Doc. Nos. 187, 204), Starks agreed that the following facts were true:

On October 16, Starks and his cousin Darryl shot Joshua Woods multiple times, ostensibly because Woods had failed to support Darryl in a fight with Martez Parham earlier in the day at a nearby barbershop. Woods required medical treatment for his gunshot wounds. Even though Woods identified his assailants to the police, Starks’ aunt, Ivy C. Starks, attempted to bribe Woods and made veiled threats against him in an effort to prevent him from testifying about the shooting and assailants at court proceedings.

Barely a month after the Woods shooting, Starks and Terrence Kimbrough ambushed and attempted to rob Brandon Leggs, who they believed to be a marijuana dealer carrying drug proceeds. On November 26, 2014, after Leggs came out of a market on Lewis Street that sits across from Napier and got into his car, Starks and Kimbrough approached the vehicle on both sides and began speaking to Leggs through the open windows. As Leggs tried to drive off, the two opened fire with semi-automatic pistols and then fled the scene. Leggs drove a short distance, got out of his car, collapsed on the street, and died.2

Monte Watson was in the area and witnessed Starks and Kimbrough shoot Leggs. At the time, Watson was already cooperating with local and federal authorities, and was providing information about criminal activity in and around the J.C. Napier housing development. Watson reported the event to the police, and told friends and relatives what he had seen.

In the days following the murder, Starks and Kimbrough came to believe that Watson

516 F.Supp.3d 766

was a witness and likely to tell authorities about their involvement in Leggs’ murder. Alarmed and armed, they began looking for Watson in earnest, and went to a residence in Napier but did not find him there.

On December 1, 2014, Starks was arrested at his girlfriend's house. The next day, during a recorded call from the jail, Starks stated that he knew Watson was a "snitch," and that both he and Kimbrough had been looking for Watson. Less than 24-hours later, at 3:05 a.m. on December 3, 2014, Watson was shot and killed near Lewis and Robertson Streets, just outside the J.C. Napier housing complex. Watson was killed by Kimbrough and a juvenile in order to prevent him from revealing information he knew regarding Leggs’ murder, and other crimes committed by Kimbrough, Starks, and others.

As a result of these events, a federal grand jury returned two indictments against Starks. In the first case, 3:15-cr-147-5 ("the 2015 case"), a fourteen-count Superseding Indictment was returned against seven Defendants. There, Starks was charged in Count Eight with possessing ammunition as a user of controlled substances in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3) in relation to the Woods shooting. Kimbrough, Parham, and Darryl and Ivy Starks were also named in that Indictment.

The second case, 3:16-cr-142-2 ("the 2016 case"), involved an eleven-count Indictment against five Defendants. Starks was charged in the following counts with the following crimes in relation to the attempted robbery and murder of Leggs, and the subsequent efforts to track down Watson:

(1) Count One: Conspiring to commit Hobbs Act robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 & 1951.

(2) Count Two: Carrying and discharging a firearm while conspiring and attempting to commit the Hobbs Act robbery (alleged in Count One) resulting in death, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(j).

(3) Count Three: Possessing ammunition as a user of controlled substance (in connection with Count Two), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g).

(4) Count Five: Conspiring to commit witness intimidation in violation of 18 U.S.C §§ 2 & 1512.

(5) Count Six: Carrying a firearm while conspiring to commit witness intimidation in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 & 924(C)(1)(a).

Again, Kimbrough was named in this Indictment, as was Brandon Starks, petitioner's brother.

On June 1, 2017, Starks and the Government entered into a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement to resolve both cases. In exchange for a 420 month (35 year) sentence and the dismissal of Count Six in the 2016 case, Starks agreed to plead guilty to the single count against him (Count Eight) in the 2015 case, and to Counts One, Two, Three and Five in the 2016 case. The Plea Agreement was accepted by Judge Aleta A. Trauger, and Starks was sentenced in accordance with the terms of his plea agreement by visiting Judge Roger H. Lawson, Jr. More specifically, Starks was sentenced to 120 months in the 2015 case, and to 240 months on Count One, 420 months on Count Two, 120 months on Count Three, and 360 months on Count Five in the 2016 case. The sentences were all ordered to be served concurrently.3

516 F.Supp.3d 767

Starks did not appeal his convictions or sentence. Nor did he file a motion to correct, vacate, or set aside within one year of the convictions becoming final in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(1). Nevertheless he argues his present motion and supplemental motions are timely and meritorious because of two cases decided by the Supreme Court in June 2019.

First, in United States v. Davis, ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 2319, 2336, 204 L.Ed.2d 757 (2019), the Court found the residual clause of Section 924(c)(3) to be unconstitutionally vague. This wrought a sea-change in Sixth Circuit jurisprudence in several respects. For one, in seeking an enhanced sentence for firearm possession or use, the Government could no longer rely on the residual clause that the statute defined as a felony involving "a substantial risk that physical force ... may be used." 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(A). Instead, in order to secure the enhanced penalty, the Government was required to prove a felony under the elements clause, which meant that the firearm was used in a crime that had "as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another." Id. § 924(c)(3)(B). This abrogated controlling Sixth Circuit law in the form of United States v. Taylor, 814 F.3d 340, 379 (6th Cir. 2016) that upheld the residual clause against a vagueness challenge. See, Manners v. United States, 947 F.3d 377, 379 (6th Cir. 2020) (noting that Davis abrogated Taylor ). Moreover, even though " Davis established a ‘new rule’ because its ‘result was not dictated by precedent existing at the time the defendant's conviction became final,’ " it applies retroactively. In re Franklin, 950 F.3d 909, 911 (6th Cir. 2020) (citing Welch v. United States, ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S. Ct. 1257, 1264–65, 194 L.Ed.2d 387 (2016) ).

Second, in Rehaif v. United States, ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 2191, 204 L.Ed.2d 594 (2019), the Supreme Court examined the interplay between § 922(g) ’s prohibition against carrying a firearm by individuals who fall within any one of nine categories from possessing firearms,4 and § 924(a)(2) ’s provision that a person who knowingly violates the statute is subject to up to ten-years imprisonment. Specifically, does the word knowingly in the statute "mean that the Government must prove that a defendant knew both that he engaged in the relevant conduct (that he possessed a firearm) and also that he fell within the relevant status (that he was a felon, an alien unlawfully in this country, or the like)?" Id. at 2194. The Supreme Court answered the question in the affirmative, holding that "the...

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3 cases
  • Bradford v. United States, 3:20-cv-00526
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • February 16, 2021
    ...his plea agreement. The Court disagrees. As recently explained in detail by this Court in Starks v. United States, No. 3:15-CR-00147-5, 516 F.Supp.3d 762, 767–68, (M.D. Tenn. Feb. 2, 2021) that waiver provision (and the one typically used in this district) does not bar collateral review of ......
  • Finch v. United States, 3:20-cv-00653
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • July 1, 2022
    ...§ 924(c)(1) because the predicate convictions were not crimes of violence under the elements clause); Starks v. United States, 516 F.Supp.3d 762, 767-68, 776-77 (M.D. Tenn. 2021) (same, but for a violation of § 924(j)); see also Richardson, 948 F.3d at 741 (“With the residual clause now gon......
  • Braden v. United States, Crim. 3:15-cr-00088-5
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • September 21, 2022
    ...neither is attempted Hobbs Act robbery. This is not the first time the Court has traveled down this road. In Starks v. United States, 516 F.Supp.3d 762 (M.D. Tenn. 2021), defendant was charged with conspiracy and attempt to commit Hobbs Act robbery. The conspiracy portion was a straight sho......

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