Man’s prior conviction doesn’t render him a career offender

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the denial of a man’s habeas petition, finding his conviction of arson in the third degree in Delaware doesn’t qualify as a crime of violence under U.S.S.G. Section 4B.1. As such, his current sentence should be reduced to reflect he isn’t a career offender.

Royce Brown was convicted in Delaware of one count each of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm by a felon in 1996 and classified as a career offender based in part on his prior arson conviction. Now incarcerated in Indiana, Brown filed a pro se habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. Section 2241 contending that under Begay v. United States, 553 U.S. 137 (2008), that conviction doesn’t qualify as a crime of violence under Section 4B1.1. The District Court dismissed the petition sua sponte because “the savings clause embodied in 2255(e) requires a claim of actual innocence directed to the underlying conviction, not merely the sentence.”

The 7th Circuit found that the District judge erred in concluding that challenges to a sentence are categorically barred under Section 2241. Brown is entitled to relief under that section because under Begay, his arson in the third degree conviction under Delaware law doesn’t qualify as “generic” arson under the enumerated crimes clause of the career offender guideline, nor is it covered by the residual clause, Judge Joel Flaum wrote in Royce Brown v. John F. Caraway, Warden, 12-1439.

The judges ruled that provided other (In re Davenport, 147 F.3d 605 (7th Cir. 1998)) conditions are present, a petitioner may utilize the savings clause to challenge the misapplication of the career offender guideline, at least where the defendant was sentenced in the pre-Booker era (543 U.S. 220 (2005)).

The judges sent the case back to the District Court to reduce Brown’s 360-month sentence.

Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, who did not sit on the panel deciding this case, wrote separately that the 7th Circuit’s holding that combines Davenport with Navarez v. United States, 674 F.3d 621 (7th Cir. 2011), “puts us in conflict with at least two circuits, as the panel acknowledges, with no other circuit on our side” in that the savings clause of Section 2255(e) doesn’t permit a prisoner to bring in Section 2241 petition a guidelines miscalculation claim that is barred from being presented in a Section 2255 motion.

“Notwithstanding what I have said, Davenport and Narvaez enjoy support in this circuit. I appear to be the only judge who doubts their soundness. It would therefore be pointless to sit en banc. Resolution of the conflict belongs to Congress or the Supreme Court. That is why I did not call for a hearing en banc following the panel’s circulation under Circuit Rule 40(e),” he wrote.



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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.