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United States v. Young

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Medford Division

April 30, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
NATHANAEL JAMES YOUNG, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          MICHAEL McSHANE United States District Judge

         The matter comes before the Court on Defendant Nathanael James Young's Motion to Vacate or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. ECF No. 43. The Court concludes that three of Defendant's predicate convictions do not qualify as serious drug offenses under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) and that Defendant's former counsel was ineffective for failing to argue against the application of the ACCA's mandatory minimum sentence. Defendant's motion under § 2255 is therefore GRANTED. Defendant's sentence is VACATED and Defendant shall be transported for resentencing.

         BACKGROUND

         On July 6, 2017, Defendant Nathaneal James Young was charged by superseding indictment with a single count of Felon in Possession of a Firearm and single count of Unlawful Possession of a Stolen Firearm. ECF No. 14. The superseding indictment alleged that Young had at least three prior convictions for drug trafficking offenses and was subject to the penalties established by the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). Young had the following relevant prior convictions in Oregon state court:

(1) A 2016 conviction for Unlawful Delivery of Methamphetamine in Coos County Circuit Court;
(2) A 2012 conviction for Unlawful Delivery of Methamphetamine in Josephine County Circuit Court;
(3) A second 2012 conviction for Unlawful Delivery of Methamphetamine in Josephine County Circuit Court;
(4) A 2004 conviction for Possession of a Precursor Substance with Intent to Manufacture a Controlled Substance in Josephine County Circuit Court; and
(5) A 1999 conviction for Conspiracy to Deliver Marijuana in Curry County Circuit Court.

         On July 17, 2017, Young appeared before Magistrate Judge Clarke and pleaded guilty to Felon in Possession of a Firearm pursuant to a plea agreement. ECF Nos. 21, 22, 23, 24. Young acknowledged that the Government would seek an enhanced sentence of 180 months under the ACCA based on his prior felony drug offenses. In exchange, the Government agreed to dismiss the charge of Unlawful Possession of a Stolen Firearm. Young was also facing state charges in Coos County Circuit Court. As part of the plea agreement, the state prosecutor agreed to recommend a sentence of 36 months to run concurrent to Young's federal sentence. Judge Clarke accepted Young's plea, ordered that a presentence report (“PSR”) be prepared, and then referred the matter to this Court for sentencing.

         The PSR found that Young's total offense level was 30 with a criminal history category of VI, which yielded an advisory guidelines range of 168 to 210 months. The PSR also found that Young was subject to the statutory mandatory minimum sentence under the ACCA, which yielded an adjusted guidelines range of 180 to 210 months.

         At the time of sentencing, Young was represented by attorney Robert Stone. During the sentencing hearing, Stone advised the Court that Young did not object to the application of the ACCA mandatory minimum sentence. ECF No. 39 (Transcript of Sentencing Hearing).

         On November 16, 2017, this Court sentenced Young to 180 months to be served concurrent with the Coos County Circuit Court sentence, followed by five years of supervised release. As part of that sentence, this Court found that Young was subject to the ACCA mandatory minimum sentence.

         On December 1, 2017, Young filed a Notice of Appeal, which he voluntarily dismissed in March 2018. ECF Nos. 34, 42. This motion followed.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a federal prisoner in custody under sentence may move the court that imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence on the ground that:

[T]he 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. . . .

28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).

         To warrant relief, a petitioner must demonstrate that the error of constitutional magnitude had a substantial and injurious effect or influence on the guilty plea or the jury's verdict. Brechtv. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 637 (1993); see also United States v. Montalvo, 331 F.3d 1052, 1058 (9th Cir. 2003) (“We hold now that Brecht's harmless error ...


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