United States v. Jimenez-Segura, Case No. 1:07-CR-146

Citation206 F.Supp.3d 1115
Decision Date08 September 2016
Docket NumberCase No. 1:07-CR-146
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia
Parties UNITED STATES of America v. Juan JIMENEZ-SEGURA.

Michael Rich, United States Attorney's Office, Alexandria, VA, for United States of America.

Peter Linn Goldman, Alexandria, VA, for Juan Jimenez-Segura.

AMENDED MEMORANDUM OPINION 1

T.S. Ellis, III, United States District Judge

Defendant, by counsel, has filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct two sentences imposed on him nearly a decade ago on the ground that the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States , ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 2551, 192 L.Ed.2d 569 (2015), operates to invalidate his convictions for two counts of using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). The government has filed a motion to dismiss defendant's § 2255 motion as time-bared by the one-year statute of limitations set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f). Because the matter has been fully briefed and the facts and law are fully set forth in the existing record, neither oral argument nor an evidentiary hearing would aid the decisional process.2

Accordingly, the matter is now ripe for disposition.

I.

On June 20, 2007, defendant pled guilty to two counts (Count 1 and Count 8) of using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) ; both counts arose from defendant's involvement in various robberies of check cashing stores. Specifically, defendant admitted (i) that on September 14, 2005, defendant and his co-conspirator robbed an employee of a Money Post store in Riverdale, Maryland, by means of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of the goal or objective of the conspiracy of which defendant and his co-conspirators were members, and (ii) that from July 25, 2005, through June 2006, in Arlington, Virginia, in the Eastern District of Virginia, and elsewhere, defendant and his co-conspirator and others committed additional robberies of check cashing stores by means of using, carrying, and brandishing a handgun in furtherance of the goal or objective of the conspiracy and in order to take or attempt to take from the presence of employees of each check cashing store, against the employees' will, money belonging to the store. On October 26, 2007, defendant received a sentence of 300 months' imprisonment for Count 8, and a sentence of 84 months' imprisonment for Count 1, to run consecutively to the 300-month sentence for Count 8.

Pursuant to § 924(c), a defendant who "during and in relation to any crime of violence ... uses or carries a firearm ... shall, in addition to the punishment provided for such crime of violence ... if the firearm is brandished, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 7 years," and "[i]n the case of a second or subsequent conviction under [§ 924(c) ], the person shall ... be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 25 years." 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1). In order to prove a violation of § 924(c), the government must establish: (1) that the defendant possessed and brandished a firearm; and (2) that he did so during and in relation to a crime of violence. United States v. Strayhorn , 743 F.3d 917, 922 (4th Cir.2014). Under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3), a "crime of violence" is any felony:

(A) [that] has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or
(B) that by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.

Id. Subsection (A) and subsection (B) of § 924(c)(3) are commonly referred to as the "force clause" and the "residual clause," respectively. Defendant's two convictions pursuant to § 924(c) were predicated on the following crimes of violence: (i) interference with commerce by robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 ("Hobbs Act robbery") (Count 8); and (ii) conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery (Count 1).

On June 26, 2015, nearly a decade after defendant's sentence was imposed, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Johnson v. United States , –––U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 2551, 192 L.Ed.2d 569 (2015), addressing the definition of "violent felony" in the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). Specifically, the Supreme Court in Johnson held that the ACCA residual clause—the provision that defines a "violent felony" to include an offense that "otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another," 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii) —is unconstitutionally vague, and therefore that "imposing an increased sentence under the residual clause of the [ACCA] violates the Constitution's guarantee of due process." Id. at 2563. Thereafter, on April 18, 2016, the Supreme Court held that Johnson announced a new "substantive rule that has retroactive effect in cases on collateral review." Welch v. United States , ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 1257, 1268, 194 L.Ed.2d 387 (2016).

On June 24, 2016, shortly after the Supreme Court's decision in Welch , defendant filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentences imposed on him for his two convictions pursuant to § 924(c) on the ground that the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson operates to invalidate these two convictions. Specifically, defendant contends that the residual clause of § 924(c) is indistinguishable from the ACCA residual clause, and accordingly, the residual clause of § 924(c) is unconstitutionally vague under the rationale of Johnson .

On July 12, 2016, the government filed a motion to dismiss defendant's § 2255 motion on the ground that collateral review of defendant's sentence or conviction is barred by the one-year statute of limitations set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f).

II.

The government's motion to dismiss raises a threshold issue as to whether defendant's § 2255 motion is timely. Because defendant filed his § 2255 motion approximately a decade after his sentences of conviction and judgment became final, his § 2255 motion would typically be barred by the one-year limitations period set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(1). Yet, defendant contends that his § 2255 motion is timely because pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(3), the limitations period runs from June 26, 2015, the date Johnson was decided. In this regard, § 2255(f)(3) provides that a one-year limitations period runs from "the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review." Id.3

The Fourth Circuit has explained that "to obtain the benefit of the limitations period stated in § 2255(f)(3), [a movant] must show: (1) that the Supreme Court recognized a new right; (2) that the right ‘has been ... made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review’; and (3) that [the movant] filed his motion within one year of the date on which the Supreme Court recognized the right." United States v. Mathur , 685 F.3d 396, 398 (4th Cir.2012) (quoting § 2255(f)(3) ). Importantly, however, there is a question as to the meaning of the term "right" as used in § 2255(f)(3). As neither the Supreme Court nor the Fourth Circuit has grappled with this question,4 it is appropriate, indeed necessary, to do so here.5

The Supreme Court has made clear that when interpreting a statute, "the starting point... is the language itself." Consumer Prod. Safety Comm'n v. GTE Sylvania, Inc. , 447 U.S. 102, 108, 100 S.Ct. 2051, 64 L.Ed.2d 766 (1980). In this regard, it is axiomatic that "[i]f the statutory language is plain," a court "must enforce it according to its terms." King v. Burwell , ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 2480, 2489, 192 L.Ed.2d 483 (2015). At the same time, the Supreme Court has recently explained that statutory interpretation properly proceeds "with reference to the statutory context, ‘structure, history, and purpose,’ " as well as "common sense." Abramski v. United States , ––– U.S. ––––, 134 S.Ct. 2259, 2267, 189 L.Ed.2d 262 (2014) (quoting Maracich v. Spears , ––– U.S. ––––, 133 S.Ct. 2191, 2209, 186 L.Ed.2d 275 (2013) ). Thus, "although the analysis properly focuses on the text, the analysis is not necessarily limited to the text." Angiotech Pharms. Inc. v. Lee , 191 F.Supp.3d 509, 521, No. 1:15–cv–1673, 2016 WL 3248352, at *9 (E.D.Va. June 8, 2016).

A.

Statutory analysis of § 2255(f)(3) properly begins with the text and the "fundamental" principle that "unless otherwise defined, words will be interpreted as taking their ordinary, contemporary, common meaning." Perrin v. United States , 444 U.S. 37, 42, 100 S.Ct. 311, 62 L.Ed.2d 199 (1979). In this regard, the term "right" as used in § 2255(f)(3) is generally understood to refer to a legally protected interest that one may claim against another.6 Yet, it has long been recognized that the term "right" is ambiguous;7 depending on the context, for example, a right can be framed broadly or narrowly. See, e.g. , Washington v. Glucksberg , 521 U.S. 702, 719–21, 117 S.Ct. 2258, 138 L.Ed.2d 772 (1997) (cautioning that courts must articulate fundamental rights narrowly in the substantive due process context). As relevant here, the term "right" in § 2255(f)(3) could refer (i) to the right asserted by defendant not to be incarcerated pursuant to § 924(c) in light of Johnson , or (ii) the broader principle underlying Johnson that due process requires fair notice of prohibited conduct.

The choice between these alternatives is significant here. If "right" refers to a broad principle rather than a narrow application of that principle to a specific statute, then the "right" on which defendant relies is not "newly recognized," as § 2255(f)(3) requires, and therefore defendant cannot avail himself of § 2255(f)(3)'s limitations period. This is so because the broad principle...

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