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Stuckey v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

December 20, 2017

Sean Stuckey, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
United States of America Respondent-Appellee.

          Argued: September 29, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. No. 16-cv-1787 - J. Paul Oetken, Judge.[*]

         Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Oetken, J.) denying a motion filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 2255, and upholding Petitioner's sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). Petitioner contends that his prior convictions under subsections (3) and (4) of the New York first degree robbery statute, N.Y. Penal Law § 160.15, do not categorically qualify as violent felonies under the ACCA. We conclude that Petitioner's convictions satisfy the intent requirement for ACCA predicate offenses under the ACCA's "elements" clause. Accordingly, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

          Matthew B. Larsen, Federal Defenders of New York, New York, NY, for Petitioner-Appellant.

          Nicholas Folly, Assistant United States Attorney (Margaret Garnett, Assistant United States Attorney, of counsel), for Joon H. Kim, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, New York, NY, for Respondent-Appellee.

          Before: Chin and Droney, Circuit Judges, and Restani, Judge. [**]

          Droney, Circuit Judge

         In 2007, Sean Stuckey was convicted in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York of possession of a handgun by a previously convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e). At sentencing, the district court imposed a sentence of 188 months and ten days' imprisonment. Part of that sentence was the mandatory minimum sentence of 180 months required by the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). The ACCA requires such a sentence for violations of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) if the defendant has three previous convictions in state or federal court for "serious drug offense[s]" or "violent felon[ies]."[1] 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1).

         In 2016, Stuckey filed a motion in the district court under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to "vacate, set aside, or correct" his sentence, relying on recent Supreme Court decisions that narrowed the types of crimes that qualify as predicate offenses under the ACCA. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).

         In the district court's proceedings concerning his § 2255 motion, Stuckey contended that two of his prior first degree New York robbery convictions were not violent felonies under the ACCA.[2] Stuckey argued that under Leocal v. Ashcroft, 543 U.S. 1 (2004), a defendant must intend the degree of "physical force" required by 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(i) for the penalties imposed by the ACCA to apply. Stuckey reasoned that his prior New York first degree robbery convictions cannot categorically qualify as violent felonies under the ACCA because New York law imposes strict liability on accomplices who do not engage in the particular conduct that elevates the statutory offense to a first degree robbery.

          The district court rejected this argument, concluding that the robbery statute's intent requirement satisfies Leocal's intent requirement without the need for additional proof that the defendant intended to commit the aggravating acts necessary to elevate the crime to first degree robbery. We agree with the district court that the intent requirement for an offense to qualify as an ACCA predicate was satisfied by Stuckey's two prior first degree robbery convictions. Accordingly, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

         BACKGROUND

         In March 2006, Sean Stuckey was on New York state parole and visited his parole office to report that he was having a "problem in his neighborhood." United States v. Stuckey, No. 06-cr-339, 2007 WL 2962594, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 10, 2007). Because his parole officer was not able to see him at that time, the officer visited Stuckey that evening at his rented room in the Bronx. Id. During the visit, the officer entered Stuckey's room and saw a loaded handgun on top of Stuckey's nightstand, in violation of his parole conditions. Id. at *3. Officers from the New York City Police Department arrived and took Stuckey into custody. Id. Stuckey was then indicted in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York for possession of a handgun and ammunition by a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and § 924(e)(1). Id. at *6. He was found guilty on July 30, 2007, following a jury trial. Id.

         At his sentencing on January 10, 2008, the district court (Patterson, Jr., J.) sentenced Stuckey to 188 months and 10 days' imprisonment, applying the mandatory minimum of 180 months required by the ACCA, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). At the time, Stuckey did not contest that three of his prior New York state convictions (one for second degree assault and two for separate first degree robberies) subjected him to enhanced penalties as an armed career criminal. The court determined that Stuckey was subject to the mandatory minimum sentence because these three prior convictions counted as violent felonies under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B).

         Following his conviction and sentencing, Stuckey appealed to this Court. On appeal, Stuckey raised various arguments regarding his competency, the suppression and admission of evidence, the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), the lawfulness of the ACCA after Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and the district court's consideration of the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(c) sentencing factors. He did not challenge the treatment of his prior New York convictions in calculating his sentence under the ACCA. We affirmed. United States v. Stuckey, 317 Fed.Appx. 48 (2d Cir. 2009) (summary order). In 2016, Stuckey filed his motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate his sentence.

         During his hearing before the district court on his § 2255 motion, Stuckey argued that recent Supreme Court decisions rendered his two previous first degree robbery convictions not violent felonies under the ACCA. The district court (Oetken, J.) denied the motion, holding that the two New York state first degree robbery convictions were violent felonies under the ACCA. Following that decision, the district court issued a certificate of appealability. App. 5-6. This appeal followed.

         DISCUSSION

         On appeal Stuckey argues that his New York first degree robbery convictions are not categorically violent felonies under the ACCA because he must have personally intended the particular enhanced conduct under the two subsections of the New York first degree robbery statute under which he was convicted to qualify the convictions as ACCA predicates. Stuckey relies on two Supreme Court precedents: Leocal v. Ashcroft, 543 U.S. 1 (2004), which requires a threshold level of intent for ACCA predicate crimes, and Johnson v. United States, 559 U.S. 133 (2010), which clarifies the degree of force necessary for an ACCA predicate. "We review de novo the district court's determination of whether a prior offense is a 'violent felony' under the ACCA, " United States v. Lynch, 518 F.3d 164, 168 (2d Cir. 2008), and conclude that Stuckey's first degree robbery convictions satisfy the ACCA's intent requirement.

         I. New York First Degree Robbery

         The New York robbery statute sets forth the following as to the aggravating circumstances that elevate ...


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