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United States v. Knutson

United States District Court, D. Oregon

July 18, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent,
v.
ROBIN LEE KNUTSON, Defendant/Petitioner.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Michael J. McShane United States District Judge.

         Petitioner Robin Lee Knutson is currently serving an aggregate 475-month sentence stemming from an armed bank robbery he committed in 1998. His sentence consists in part of mandatory 120- and 240-month consecutive sentences imposed under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Mr. Knutson now moves to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. He argues that, following the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), the federal armed bank robbery offense underlying his two § 924(c) convictions no longer qualifies as a “crime of violence” and therefore cannot form the basis for those mandatory consecutive sentences. He also argues that he is entitled to resentencing for the bank robbery offense based on the Supreme Court's decision in Dean v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 1170 (2017). Because federal armed bank robbery remains a crime of violence, and the Supreme Court has yet to make Dean retroactive to cases on collateral review, Mr. Knutson's motion is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         In 1999, a jury found Mr. Knutson guilty of one count of armed bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and (d) (Count 1), one count of using or carrying a firearm during a “crime of violence, ” in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(B)(i) (Count 2), one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count 3), one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Count 4), and one count of using or carrying a firearm in relation to a “drug trafficking crime, ” in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(B)(i) (Count 5). On March 14, 2000, Mr. Knutson was sentenced to three concurrent sentences of 115 months for Counts 1, 3, and 4, a mandatory consecutive sentence of 120 months for Count 2, and a mandatory consecutive sentence of 240 months for Count 5.[1]

         DISCUSSION

         Mr. Knutson argues that he is entitled to resentencing on two different grounds. First, he argues that the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), invalidated his two mandatory consecutive sentences under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(B)(i) because one of his predicate convictions, federal armed bank robbery, no longer qualifies as a “crime of violence.” Second, Mr. Knutson argues that the Supreme Court's later decision in Dean v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 1170 (2017), entitles him to a new sentencing hearing in which the sentencing judge has discretion to consider the impact of his mandatory consecutive sentences on his aggregate sentence. I address each claim in turn.

         I. Mr. Knutson's Johnson Claim.

         Mr. Knutson first argues that his 120- and 240-month mandatory consecutive sentences under § 924(c)(1)(B)(i) are unconstitutional because, after the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutionally vague the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii), in Johnson, the predicate armed bank robbery offense underlying those two convictions is no longer a “crime of violence.” The ACCA imposes a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for the crime of felon in possession of a firearm if a defendant has three prior predicate convictions that meet the definition of “violent felony.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). The ACCA defines “violent felony” as follows:

(B) the term “violent felony” means any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year . . . that-
(i) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another; or
(ii) is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another[.]

18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B). The final portion of the statue (i.e., “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another”) is known as the “residual clause” and was found unconstitutionally vague by the Johnson court. The Supreme Court later concluded Johnson was retroactive. Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016).

         There are two federal firearm statutes that impose mandatory minimum sentences. The ACCA, the subject of the Johnson decision, focuses on a defendant's prior criminal history; specifically, convictions involving drugs and crimes of violence. On the other hand, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) attaches irrespective of criminal history when a firearm is used or possessed in the furtherance of another “drug trafficking crime” or “crime of violence.” Mr. Knutson was sentenced under § 924(c), not the ACCA. However, he argues that, because the language in § 924(c) essentially mirrors that of the ACCA, the holding of Johnson renders his own sentence unconstitutional. Similar to the ACCA, § 924(c) contains certain sentence enhancements for any “crime of violence.” Like the ACCA, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3), which defines the term “crime of violence” as it is used throughout subsection (c), contains a “force clause” and a “residual clause.” Under § 924(c)(3), a “crime of violence” includes any offense that is a felony and-

(A) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or ...

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