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United States v. Heflin

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 18, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent,
v.
TROY MITCHELL HEFLIN, Petitioner.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER GRANTING PETITIONER’S § 2255 MOTION (ECF NO. 138)

          LAWRENCE J. O’NEILL UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Petitioner Troy Mitchell Heflin’s (“Petitioner, ” “Defendant, ” or “Heflin”) motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, filed on June 22, 2016 (ECF No. 138). The government filed its Opposition on July 14, 2016 (ECF No. 142), and Petitioner filed a Reply on July 15, 2016 (ECF No. 144). Having considered the parties’ briefing and the record in this case, the Court GRANTS Petitioner’s motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On April 13, 1995, a grand jury returned a Superseding Indictment charging Defendant with one count of Felon in Possession of Ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). ECF No. 19. Subsequent to a bench trial, the previously assigned district judge found Mr. Heflin guilty of the offense. ECF Nos. 50, 55, 57.

         The statutory maximum term of imprisonment for a violation of § 922(g)(1) is ten years. See 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2). At sentencing, the government asserted that based on his multiple prior felony convictions (four convictions for Robbery, violations of California Penal Code (“CPC”) § 211; and one conviction for Gross Vehicular Manslaughter, a violation of CPC § 191.5(a)), Heflin qualified as an Armed Career Criminal under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). Finding that Defendant Heflin had at least three prior convictions for “violent felony” offenses as defined at § 924(e)(2)(B), [1] the district court determined that Heflin was an Armed Career Criminal. On that basis, rather than the ten-year statutory maximum pursuant to § 924(e)(2), the district court instead imposed an ACCA-enhanced term of 289-months imprisonment.

         On August 14, 1996, Defendant appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support the district court’s finding that he constructively possessed ammunition that had traveled in interstate commerce. United States v. Troy Heflin, 132 F.3d 41, 1997 WL 770377, at *1 (9th Cir. 1997). On December 10, 1997, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. Id. Subsequently, Defendant filed a petition for writ of certiorari, which the Supreme Court denied. Heflin v. United States, 119 S.Ct. 227 (1998).

         On September 7, 1999, Defendant Heflin filed a pro se § 2255 motion (ECF Nos. 118, 123). On July 26, 2000, the district court denied both the motion and declined to issue a certificate of appealability (ECF Nos. 126, 127). Subsequently, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit also denied Heflin’s application for a certificate of appealability. (ECF No. 135).

         On June 22, 2016, Petitioner Heflin filed an unopposed emergency motion for a successive habeas petition. See ECF No. 138. In light of Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015) ('Johnson IF), the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted Heflin’s motion to file a successive petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on July 11, 2016, and directed this Court to rule on said petition within seven days. See ECF No. 137.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. 28 U.S.C. § 2255

         Section 2255 provides four grounds upon which a sentencing court may grant relief to a petitioning in-custody defendant:

[1] that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or [2] that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or [3] that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or [4] is otherwise subject to collateral attack … .

28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Generally, it is only a narrow range of claims that fall within the scope of § 2255. United States v. Wilcox, 640 F.2d 970, 972 (9th Cir. 1981). The alleged error of law must be “a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice.” Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333, 346 (1974) (quoting Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 429 (1962)).

         B. The Armed Career Criminal Act

         A defendant is subject to the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA” or “the Act”) and must be sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 15 years to life in custody if he has three prior convictions for “a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both.” 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(e)(1). Under the ACCA, a ...


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