United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION TO VACATE, SET
ASIDE, OR CORRECT SENTENCE
BOND ARTERTON, U.S.D.J.
Manuel Villarini moves pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to
vacate, set aside, or correct his current sentence of
imprisonment. (Habeas Motion [Doc. #1].) For the reasons that
follow, Petitioner's Motion is denied.
September 2005, Petitioner was indicted on charges of
conspiracy with intent to distribute and to distribute heroin
in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1),
841(b)(1)(B), and 846. (Id. at 2.; see
Superseding Indictment, United States of America v.
Manuel Villarini, No. 3:05-cr-195-JBA-25 (D. Conn. Sep.
7, 2005), ECF No. 217.) After entering into a plea agreement
with the Government, Petitioner pled guilty to that charge on
May 12, 2006. (Habeas Motion at 2; Plea Agreement, United
States of America v. Manuel Villarini, No. 3:05-cr-195,
(D. Conn. May 12, 2006), ECF Nos. 666-67.) That plea
agreement noted that it "appears . . . that the
defendant is a career offender under § 4B1.1 based on
his 1991 conviction for sale of narcotics and his 1989
conviction for third degree robbery," but Petitioner
"expressly reserve[d] his right to challenge any finding
that he is a career offender und § 4B1.1." (Plea
Agreement at 4.)
February 7, 2007, Petitioner was sentenced to a term of
imprisonment of 168 months, followed by four years of
supervised release. (Judgment, United States of America
v. Manuel Villarini, No. 3:05-cr-195, (D. Conn.
May 12, 2006), ECF No. 1019.) The sentencing court (Hon. Mark
R. Kravitz) found that Petitioner "was a Career Offender
because of prior convictions for robbery and sale of
narcotics," which would have produced a guidelines range
of 188 to 235 months. (Id.) That court
"departed one category horizontally [from Category VI to
Category V] because the Career Offender designation
substantially over-represented the seriousness of
Defendant's criminal history," producing a
guidelines range of 168 to 210 months. (Id.)
Petitioner has previously sought relief from his sentence
under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, he sought leave from the Second
Circuit Court of Appeals to file this petition. In granting
Petitioner's motion for leave to file a successive 28
U.S.C. § 2255 petition, the Second Circuit directed this
Court to "stay the present proceeding pending a decision
in Beckles v. United States" in recognition
that the opinion in that case would likely address the issues
raised by Petitioner's motion. (Mandate [Doc. # 6].) The
Supreme Court has since issued its ruling in that case,
holding that the residual clause of the Sentencing
Guidelines' career offender enhancement is not subject to
a vagueness challenge under the Due Process Clause.
argues that under Johnson v. United States, 135
S.Ct. 2551 (2015), he is not a career offender and should be
resentenced accordingly. The Government views
Beckles as dooming Petitioner's motion. (Govt
Opp. [Doc. #17]).
Johnson, the Supreme Court found that the
"residual clause" of the Armed Career Criminal Act
(ACCA)-which included any felony which "otherwise
involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of
physical injury to another" among those upon which the
ACCA imposes an increased prison term-violated the Fifth
Amendment's "prohibition of vagueness in criminal
statutes." 135 S.Ct. at 2556-57. That decision "has
retroactive effect in cases on collateral review."
Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257, 1268 (2016).
time of Petitioner's sentencing, the definition of
"crime of violence" for purposes of the Sentencing
Guidelines' career offender enhancement included language
identical to the residual clause of the ACCA. U.S.S.G. §
4B1.2(a) (2006 version) (defining "crime of
violence" to include any offense punishable by
imprisonment for a term exceeding one year which
"otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious
potential risk of physical injury to another").
argues that like the ACCA clause invalidated in
Johnson, the identical Guidelines clause is also
"void for vagueness." (Habeas Motion at 3.) He
argues that "[t]hus, the only remaining question here is
whether Petitioner's prior robbery conviction qualifies
as a 'crime of violence' under the 'enumerated
offenses' clause or 'elements' clause of the
career offender provision." (Id.) See U.S.S.G.
§ 4Bl.2(a) (2006 version). Petitioner reasons that
because his prior robbery conviction does not qualify as a
crime of violence under either of those alternative
definitions, he is not a career offender and is entitled to
resentencing without application of a career offender
enhancement. (Habeas Motion at 3-4.)
Government responds that under Beckles v. United
States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017), the career offender
guideline is not subject to a johnson-style vagueness
challenge and that therefore Petitioner's status as a
career offender remains valid. In Beckles, the
Supreme Court considered an argument identical to that of
Petitioner: that "the advisory Sentencing
Guidelines['] . . . residual clause defining a 'crime
of violence' as an offense that 'involves conduct
that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to
another'" is "also void for vagueness"
following the Johnson decision. 137 S.Ct. at 890.
The Supreme Court "reject[ed]" that argument and
held that "the advisory Guidelines are not subject
to vagueness challenges under the Due Process Clause,"
concluding that the "residual clause in §
4Bl.2(a)(2) therefore is not void for vagueness."
Id. at 890, 892. Because Beckles makes
clear that the residual clause of the Guidelines' career
offender definition is not void under Johnson,
Petitioner's argument to the contrary is unavailing.
foregoing reasons, Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, Set
Aside, or ...