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September 12, 2017
  United States v. Jones
Case Name: United States v. Jones

Headline: Second Circuit Holds That New York First-Degree Robbery is Categorically a Crime of Violence Under the Career Offender Guideline

Area of Law: Criminal

Issue(s) Presented: Whether New York first-degree robbery categorically qualifies as a crime of violence under the residual clause of the Career Offender Guideline, in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Beckles v. United States.

Brief Summary: While serving a 92-month federal sentence in a halfway house, Corey Jones had an altercation with two Deputy U.S. Marshals. He was ultimately convicted of assaulting a federal officer. Because of this conviction and his previous record (which included a conviction for New York first-degree robbery), Jones satisfied the elements of the Career Offender Guideline, which provides longer sentences for career offenders. He was sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment. Jones appealed, and the Second Circuit initially ruled in his favor, largely based on the argument that the residual clause of the Career Offender Guideline - which provides that a crime of violence includes any offense that "involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another" - was void for vagueness. Shortly thereafter, however, the Second Circuit vacated its holding to await the Supreme Court's decision in Beckles v. United States, where the Court would address whether the residual clause was unconstitutionally vague. In Beckles, the Supreme Court held that the residual clause of the Career Offender Guideline is constitutional. The Second Circuit then concluded that New York first-degree robbery categorically qualifies as a crime of violence under the residual clause, and affirmed Jones' sentence.

Extended Summary: The Career Offender Guideline ("Guideline") is an enhanced sentencing standard used when defendants in federal court satisfy certain enumerated criteria. A defendant is a career offender if he is at least eighteen years old when he committed the current offense for which he was convicted, the current offense is a felony that is a "crime of violence," and he has at least two prior felony convictions of "crimes of violence." In this context, a "crime of violence" is a legal term that may be satisfied by two different definitions within the Guidelines. At issue in this case is the second definition, which lists specific offenses that apply as crimes of violence and ends with the "residual clause," which incorporates into the second definition any offense that "otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another." Recently, the United States Supreme Court has decided two cases that analyze residual clauses. The first, Johnson v. United States, involved the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act, which is nearly identical to the residual clause in the Guideline. In Johnson, the Supreme Court determined that the residual clause was void for vagueness. Following oral argument in the Jones case, however, the Supreme Court determined in Beckles v. United States that the residual clause in the Guideline is not void for vagueness.

In 2013, Jones was completing a federal sentence for unlawful gun possession in a halfway house. He verbally threatened a staff member, which violates the rules of the halfway house, and was remanded to custody of the Bureau of Prisons. Two U.S. Marshals arrived to arrest Jones and bring him into custody, but Jones assaulted one of the Marshals during the arrest, which violated a federal statute. In the District Court for the Eastern District of New York, a jury convicted Jones of assaulting a federal officer. The District Court determined that this conviction satisfied the requirements of the Guidelines because a first-degree robbery is a crime of violence under the residual clause. Under the Guideline, the District Judge sentenced Jones to 180 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Jones appealed, relying on the Johnson holding to argue that the residual clause in the Guideline should be void for vagueness. The Second Circuit initially agreed and reversed the District Court's conviction. However, the Second Circuit subsequently vacated its decision to await the Supreme Court's decision in Beckles v. United States. In Beckles, the Supreme Court analyzed the Guideline's residual clause and found that it was not void for vagueness. The Second Circuit relied on Beckles to determine that New York first-degree robbery applies as a crime of violence under the residual clause because a person who "forcibly steals property from a person, while armed with a deadly weapon, engages in conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another." After making this determination, the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court's conviction of Jones. To read the full opinion, please visit: http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/de...1518_complete_opn.pdf

Panel: Judges Walker, Calabresi, and Hall

Argument Date: 04/27/2016

Argument Location: New York

Date of Issued Opinion: 09/11/2017

Docket Number: No. 15-1518-cr

Decided: Affirmed

Case Alert Author: James Creech

Counsel: Bridget M. Rohde, Acting Assistant United States Attorney, for Plaintiff-Appellee Corey Jones, Matthew B. Larsen, Assistant Federal Defender, for Defendant-Appellant

Author of Opinion: Judge Walker, Jr.

Circuit: 2nd Circuit

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor:
Professor Emily Gold Waldman

    Posted By: Emily Waldman @ 09/12/2017 09:21 PM     2nd Circuit  

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