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United States v. Ryant

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 8, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MAURICE RYANT

          MEMORANDUM

          Goldberg, J.

         Defendant Maurice Ryant moves to set aside the judgment of conviction for possession of a firearm (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)) and to correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Defendant contends that he was improperly sentenced to a mandatory minimum of fifteen years' incarceration under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). He now challenges his ACCA status and requests that his current sentence be vacated. For the following reasons, I will deny Defendant's Motion.

         I. RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On August 6, 2013, Defendant pled guilty to two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e). The Presentence Report (“PSR”) establishes that Defendant has two prior convictions for felony drug trafficking offenses, a 1997 conviction for aggravated assault, and a 1997 conviction for carjacking. The aggravated assault conviction was a violation of 18 Pa.C.S. § 2702(a)(3), which is a second-degree felony.

         The PSR reflected that, based on Defendant's two prior convictions for serious drug offenses and at least one prior conviction for a violent felony, he was an armed career criminal under ACCA. Given an initial offense level of 34, plus a three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility, Defendant's total offense level was 31. With a category VI criminal history, the guideline range was 188 to 235 months. Defendant was also subject to a statutory mandatory minimum of 180 months pursuant to § 924(e). At the sentencing hearing held on November 26, 2013, I sentenced Defendant to 180 months' imprisonment.

         On April 4, 2016, Defendant filed the current Motion to Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The Government responded on July 18, 2017, and Defendant filed a reply brief on August 29, 2017. On February 20, 2018, the Government submitted supplemental authority.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A prisoner in federal custody may file a motion in the trial court challenging the validity of his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See Morelli v. United States, 285 F.Supp.2d 454, 458 (D.N.J. 2003). This provision reads 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 attack, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.

28 U.S.C. § 2255.

         Under this statutory framework, a federal prisoner shall be released from custody if the sentence “(1) was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) was imposed by a court lacking jurisdiction; (3) was in excess of the maximum authorized by law; or (4) is otherwise subject to collateral attack.” Morelli v. U.S., 285 F.Supp.2d 454, 458 (D.N.J. 2003) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2255). To establish a right to habeas corpus relief, a prisoner must demonstrate that the sentence has a “fundamental defect” resulting in a “complete miscarriage of justice or an omission inconsistent with the rudimentary demands of fair procedure.” See, e.g., United States v. DeLuca, 889 F.2d 503, 506 (3d Cir. 1989); Morelli, 285 F.Supp.2d at 458-59 (citations omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Under ACCA:

In the case of a person who violates section 922(g)[1] of this title and has three previous convictions by any court referred to in section 922(g)(1) of this title for a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both, committed on occasions different from one another, such person shall ...

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