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Eighth Circuit Vacates Sentence for Improper Supervision Length After ACCA Enhancement Removed

by Anthony Accurso

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that after the defendant’s ACCA enhancement was struck his sentence must be vacated because the court lacked jurisdiction to impose more supervision than allowed by statute. 

Travis Ryan Raymond was convicted on possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine under 21 U.S.C. § 84l(a)(l) and (b)(l)(C) and being a felon in possession of a firearm under18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(l) in 2014. The district court also determined that five of his Minnesota state priors constituted violent felonies, which triggered a 15-year mandatory minimum under § 924(e). The court sentenced him to two 15-year prison terms, one for each count, to be served concurrently and imposed a five-year term of supervision (also the minimum under the ACCA). 

Raymond’s sentence was upheld on appeal, four months before the Supreme Court issued its decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). Because Johnson struck down the ACCA provision that classified three of his priors as violent felonies, Raymond filed a timely motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The district court agreed that the ACCA statutory minimum no longer applied but denied relief because “his 15-year sentence still fell within the sentencing range recommended … on the drug count.” 

With the assistance of the Public Defender’s Office, Raymond filed a motion under Rule 60(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking reconsideration of his § 2255 petition. This was denied on the same grounds as his § 2255 motion. Raymond was granted a certificate of appealability from the district court, and the Eighth Circuit reversed. 

“An error of law may be remedied under § 2255 only when it constitutes a fundamental defect which inherently results in a miscarriage of justice.” United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178 (1979). When denying his petition, the district court relied on Sun Bear v. United States, 644 F.3d 700 (8th Cir 2011), which stated, “if the same sentence could have been imposed, then a defendant is not entitled to habeas relief.”

The Court determined that Sun Bear was distinguishable because it dealt with Guidelines sentences, not mandatory minimums. Under Cravens v. United States, 894 F.3d 891 (8th Cir 2018), the ACCA’s residual clause caused sentences to be issued which were “imposed in violation of the Constitution.” 

Using the improper standard, i.e., Sun Bear instead of Cravens, is a legal error that amounts to an abuse of discretion under City of Duluth v. Fond du Lac Band of Superior Chippewa, 702 F.3d 1147 (8th Cir 2013).

Further, the Court found the error was not harmless because the maximum term of supervision allowed by statute absent the ACCA enhancement was only three years, and the district court was without jurisdiction to impose a sentence beyond the maximum. 

The only catch for Raymond was that, in light of Quarles v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 1872 (2019), his prior for third-degree burglary may again qualify as an ACCA predicate, so the Court remanded with instructions for the district court to consider the merits of Raymond’s ACCA challenge in light of Quarles.

Accordingly, the Court vacated the denial of Raymond’s 60(b)(6) motion because the district court failed to apply the appropriate legal standard for assessing his ACCA claim. See: Raymond v. United States, 933 F.3d 988 (8th Cir. 2019). 

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