7th Circuit reverses, orders resentencing after finding man’s battery conviction serves as ACCA predicate

A man convicted on several drug counts who argued that a northern Indiana judge was wrong about his armed robbery conviction has lost an argument before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed for the federal government in his case.

On a few occasions, Bryant Love sold crack to a confidential informant that eventually led to law enforcement searching his apartment. There, police found crack and two guns with ammunition about 15 feet away. As a result, Love pleaded guilty to three drug counts and one felon-in-possession count.

The federal government subsequently proposed three Armed Career Criminal Act predicates for Love’s case, including a 1994 Illinois armed robbery; a 2009 federal distribution of crack cocaine; and Class D battery resulting in bodily injury in 2015 in Indiana.

Indiana Northern District Court Judge Philip Simon held that while the armed robbery conviction satisfied the ACCA, Love’s battery conviction did not, disqualifying him from being considered an armed career criminal. It therefore declined to apply the 15-year mandatory minimum sentence and instead sentenced Love to 96 months on each count, to be served concurrently.

Love appealed, arguing that the judge was wrong about the armed robbery conviction and that he was “mousetrapped.” He also argued that the judge erred in holding that he possessed a firearm “in connection with” drug trafficking and in considering the facts underlying the eight pending charges, but that it was right about the battery conviction.

The government, however, asserted the exact opposite, which the 7th Circuit ultimately agreed with in United States of America v. Bryant Love, 20-2131& 20-2297. It first concluded that Love’s 1994 armed robbery conviction does count as an ACCA predicate.

“The judge determined that the most persuasive proof came from the Record Officer, who said it was not the practice of the institution that discharged Love to provide restoration-of-rights letters, and who said no such letter was found in Love’s DOC file. So the judge concluded Love had not demonstrated that he received a notice about the restoration of his civil rights that failed to mention a continuing firearms limitation,” Circuit Senior Judge Daniel Manion wrote for the 7th Circuit.

“On appeal, Love invites us to re-weigh the evidence. But our review of the facts is limited to clear error, and we do not see any here. So Love’s 1994 Illinois armed robbery conviction counts as an ACCA predicate,” it wrote.

As to his battery conviction, the 7th Circuit concluded that Indiana law required the prosecutor to prove Love touched a police officer in a rude, insolent or angry manner and to prove that this resulted in bodily injury.

“If the touching resulted in bodily injury, then by definition the touching was capable of causing bodily injury. And that is enough for the ACCA. So Love’s 2015 conviction for Indiana Class D battery resulting in bodily injury counts as an ACCA predicate,” it wrote, concluding that Love must be re-sentenced under the ACCA and ordering for a remand.

As to his other issues on appeal, the 7th Circuit quickly declined to address them based on Love’s absence of a reply to the government’s argument that it need not address the other two issues if he must be resentenced under the ACCA.

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