United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION & ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS
REGARDING SENTENCING (Dkts. 80, 88)
A. GOLDSMITH, United States District Judge.
March 18, 2016, a jury found Defendant Gabriel Urzua Sanchez
guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and
to distribute controlled substances, and attempted possession
of controlled substances with intent to distribute, 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1) & 846. See Jury Verdict
Form (Dkt. 61). Prior to trial, the Government filed a notice
under 21 U.S.C. § 851 of its intent to seek an enhanced
sentence due to Defendant's prior controlled-substance
conviction (Dkt. 11).
sentencing hearing was held on October 5, 2016. At that
hearing, Defendant raised objections to a calculation in the
Presentence Investigation Report (“PSIR”), and he
later lodged those objections as a motion. That motion, which
argued that Defendant's prior offenses under Minnesota
law should not have been used to enhance his sentence
pursuant to the Government's § 851 notice, was filed
on November 2, 2016 (Dkt. 80) with the assistance of counsel.
The Government filed a response (Dkt. 81). That motion
focused on the nature of the Minnesota offenses.
that motion was pending, Defendant filed a pro se motion for
leave to file a supplemental brief on March 27, 2017 (Dkt.
84). This time, Defendant wished to bring a facial challenge
to all § 851 enhancements; Defendant also stated that,
despite his best efforts, he had been unable to get in touch
with his attorney.
Court denied this second motion because Defendant was
represented by counsel, but it ordered his attorney to either
(i) file a motion based on Defendant's arguments or (ii)
explain why such motion should not be filed (Dkt. 85).
Counsel met with Defendant and submitted a motion raising the
issues that Defendant raised in his March 27, 2017 pro se
motion (Dkt. 88). The Government filed a response to that
motion as well (Dkt. 90).
Court addresses these two motions in the order that they were
filed. For the reasons that follow, both are denied.
Motion Objecting to Guidelines Calculations (Dkt.
default, the mandatory minimum sentence for Defendant's
instant crimes of conviction is 10 years. See 21
U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A). That same statute, however,
provides that “[i]f any person commits such a violation
after a prior conviction for a felony drug offense
has become final, such person shall be sentenced to a term of
imprisonment which may not be less than 20 years . . .
.” (Emphasis added.) A “felony drug
offense” is defined by 21 U.S.C. § 802(44) as
“an offense that is punishable by imprisonment for more
than one year under any law of the United States or of a
State or foreign country that prohibits or restricts conduct
relating to narcotic drugs, marihuana, anabolic steroids, or
depressant or stimulant substances.”
alleged “prior conviction[s] for a felony drug
offense” were committed in 1998 in Minnesota, in
violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 152.021, 152.023.
See PSIR ¶ 34; see also 1/5/2015
Notice of Penalty Enhancement ¶ 5.
understand Defendant's argument, it is necessary to
provide some background of the doctrine to which he
analogizes his case. In Mathis v. United States, 136
S.Ct. 2243 (2016), the Supreme Court outlined how the
so-called “categorical approach” should apply to
a so-called “generic crime” listed in the Armed
Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. §
924(e). The ACCA prescribes a 15-year mandatory minimum
sentence (i.e., a five-year enhancement) if a defendant is
convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm
following three prior convictions for a “violent
felony.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). The ACCA defines
the term “violent felony” to include any felony,
whether state or federal, that “is burglary, arson, or
extortion.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii).
are listed in the statute, the crimes of burglary, arson, or
extortion are interpreted as the “generic”
versions of the offenses. For example, the
“generic” definition of burglary includes the
following elements: “an unlawful or unprivileged entry
into a building or other structure, with intent to commit a
crime.” Mathis, 136 S.Ct. at 2248. In order to
trigger the ACCA's violent-felony enhancement, then, a
burglary conviction must necessarily - i.e.,
“categorically” - contain all of these elements.
Even if a crime is labeled “burglary” by a state
statute or court, if it is theoretically possible to commit
the crime without satisfying all of the elements of
generic burglary, a sentence cannot be enhanced
based upon the prior conviction.
that can be committed either by (i) conduct satisfying the
generic definition or (ii) conduct outside of the generic
definition - for example, a burglary that also can be
committed by entering a non-structure, such as a vehicle - is
considered “broader” than the generic offense and
not eligible for the enhancement based on the record of the
conviction alone. See id. at 2251. This is because
the fact of the conviction does not reflect exactly what
conduct the defendant committed (i.e., whether it triggers
the enhancement). The facts establishing that a generic crime
was committed must be found beyond a reasonable doubt by a
jury or admitted by the defendant before an enhancement can
argues that, under Mathis, and “categorical
approach” jurisprudence, his prior convictions cannot
be labeled “felony drug offenses, ” categorically
speaking. He seeks to assign to the term “felony drug
offense” a “generic” definition, and then
establish that the Minnesota crimes were broader than that
generic definition. See Defs. Obj. to Guidelines at
6 (“The ...