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U.S. v. Watkins

filed: April 28, 1995.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
GARY WATKINS, A/K/A RAHEEM OKBAR GARY WATKINS, APPELLANT



On Appeal From the United States District Court For the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. Crim. Action No. 93-cr-00243).

Before: Stapleton, Hutchinson and Rosenn, Circuit Judges.

Author: Stapleton

Opinion OF THE COURT

STAPLETON, Circuit Judge:

Gary Watkins appeals from the sentence enhancement he received under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). In the district court, Watkins challenged the assertion in the presentence report that he had previously been convicted of five violent felonies. He argues that, as a result, the court should not have imposed an ACCA enhancement without requiring the government to produce a certified copy of each prior judgment of conviction. We will affirm his sentence.

I.

One week after a federal grand jury charged Watkins with a number of firearms violations, the government filed an information putting him on notice that it would seek an enhanced sentence based upon four prior violent felony convictions. The information identified one prior conviction for burglary and three prior convictions for robbery, all in the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. Watkins pled guilty to one count of the indictment.

The presentence report identified five prior felony convictions by the court of conviction, the case file number, the date of arrest, the date of sentencing, the offense charged (e.g., "Burglary," "Robbery") and the sentence imposed. In addition, the presentence report described the conduct leading to each conviction. Watkins' 1982 burglary conviction was reported to have been based on his entering a barber shop after hours and stealing two television sets, a hair dryer, a prism box, and $90 in cash. The robbery convictions were reported to have been based on the following incidents, each of which involved Watkins and two other confederates: On July 26, 1983, Watkins, armed with a sawed-off shotgun, robbed a grocery store; two days later, Watkins entered a cafe, threatened to shoot the person tending the cash register, and took $772 from the register while his companions robbed two store patrons of $363; on August 4, 1983, Watkins, armed with a sawed-off .22 caliber rifle, robbed a man of $182 as he left a bar; and on August 22, 1992, Watkins robbed a man in a car of $5 while he held a sawed-off shotgun to the victim's head.

Prior to the sentencing hearing, Watkins filed "Objections to Enhanced Sentencing" in which he refers to the convictions reported in the presentence report and states, without further elaboration, that he "denies that he has at least three prior convictions for violent felonies." At the sentencing hearing, the ambiguity inherent in this conclusory statement was clarified in the following colloquy:

The Court: All right. Do you wish to pursue your request concerning the application of the enhancement for the armed career criminal [act]?

Mr. Siegel: [Watkins' counsel] Yes, we do, Your Honor. Your Honor, I think the objections state--the written objections state [Watkins'] objection, which is that we do not consider him to be an armed career criminal, and specifically, we challenge the assertion that these prior convictions constitute violent felonies under the act. Thank you, Your Honor.

The Court: Mr. Carlson.

Mr. Carlson: [the prosecutor] Your Honor, I think it's quite clear that the defendant's prior criminal record does involve what would be violent felonies that would count under the armed career criminal statute, and his simple denial that he views them as violent crimes doesn't create any sort of factual issue that would merit the Court not pursuing the armed career criminal penalty.

This man has a prior criminal record that involves burglary and robbery convictions, and those offenses are, by any definition, and by the definition in the statute, violent felonies ...


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