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Figueroa v. United States

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 25, 2018




         Petitioner Angel Figueroa filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence ("Mot. to Vacate") [Doc. # 1] pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in light of the holding in Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S.__, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015) ("2015 Johnson"), which struck down the Residual Clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), 18 U.S.C. § 942(e) as unconstitutionally vague.[1] Petitioner argues that his prior Connecticut convictions for robbery in the second degree, attempted assault in the first degree, and assault in the second degree no longer qualify as predicate "crime[s] of violence" and therefore that his sentence should be vacated. Respondent United States (the "Government") opposes the Motion, arguing that: 1) Petitioner waived his collateral attack rights, and 2) Petitioner's three prior convictions continue to qualify as violent felonies and therefore he remains subject to the ACCA's enhanced penalties. For the following reasons, Mr. Figueroa's petition must be denied.

         I. Background

         On August 20, 2004, police responded to a citizen report that a man named Angel was brandishing a firearm and driving a red Ford Escort. However, as the police approached the vehicle it sped away, prompting a chase through several city streets that ended only after Figueroa (the driver) ran a red light, collided with another vehicle on the road, and struck a parked car. (PSR ¶ 5.) The police recovered a loaded rifle and a plastic bag with additional bullets. (Id.)

         On October 26, 2004, a federal grand jury returned a one-count indictment charging Figueroa with unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1). (See Indictment [Doc. # 1], No. 3:04-CR-314.) On February 24, 2005, Figueroa pleaded guilty to this charge. (Plea Agreement [Doc. # 14] at 1, No. 3:04-CR-314.) A "felon-in-possession" conviction normally carries a statutory maximum ten-year term of imprisonment. 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2). The Government, however, sought a sentencing enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1), which calls for a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence where a defendant has any combination of three prior convictions for serious drug offenses or crimes of violence.

         In the written plea agreement, the parties agreed that Figueroa faced a mandatory minimum penalty of fifteen years of imprisonment under the ACCA. (Plea Agreement at 2.) Moreover, Figueroa expressly waived his right to appeal or collaterally attack his sentence if that sentence did not exceed fifteen years of imprisonment:

The defendant acknowledges that under certain circumstances he is entitled to appeal his conviction and sentence. 18 U.S.C. § 3742. It is specifically agreed that the defendant will not appeal or collaterally attack in any proceeding, including but not limited to a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 and/or § 2241, the conviction or sentence of imprisonment imposed by the Court if that sentence does not exceed 15 years. The defendant expressly acknowledges that he is knowingly and intelligently waiving his appellate rights.

(Plea Agreement at 4.)

         On October 4, 2005, the district court (Kravitz, J.) sentenced Mr. Figueroa to the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of fifteen years. On October 11, 2005, judgment entered.

         On June 21, 2007, Mr. Figueroa filed a notice of appeal, which the Second Circuit dismissed as untimely. Then on June 19, 2012, Mr. Figueroa filed a motion to set aside, correct, or vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Mot. to Vacate [Doc. # 1], No. 03:12-CV-897.) On November 9, 2012, this Court denied Mr. Figueroa's § 2255 motion as untimely and as barred by his knowing and voluntary waiver of his collateral attack rights. (Ruling on Mot. to Vacate [Doc. # 6], 03:12-CV-897.)[2]

         On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court decided 2015 Johnson, striking down the ACCA's residual clause as unconstitutionally vague. Relying on 2015 Johnson, on March 22, 2016, Figueroa filed a motion seeking authorization to file a second § 2255 motion in the Second Circuit. Having received that authorization, Figueroa now seeks resentencing. In the supplemental memorandum he filed on January 11, 2017, Figueroa specifically argues that without the ACCA's residual clause, he does not have three ACCA predicate convictions and therefore should be resentenced to time served.

         II. Discussion

         Section 2255 of title 28 of the United States Code provides, in relevant part:

A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral ...

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