United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
JERRY E. GONYEA, Petitioner,
J.A. TERRIS, Respondent.
ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S PETITION FOR WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS (ECF #1)
MATTHEW F. LEITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jerry Gonyea has filed a petition for habeas corpus under 28
U.S.C. § 2241 (“Section 2241”). For the
reasons explained below, the petition is DENIED.
spring of 1994, while Gonyea was on parole for murder, Gonyea
and an accomplice twice robbed a Comerica Bank in Taylor,
Michigan. (See Resp., ECF No. 6, PageID.42-43;
United States v. Gonyea, 140 F.3d 649, 650 (6th Cir.
1998).) According to the Government, “[D]uring the
robberies [Gonyea and his accomplice] brandished guns, forced
customers to the ground, attempted to kill one customer, and
threatened to kill everyone else - including a group of Girl
Scouts who were selling cookies.” (Resp., ECF No. 6,
PageID.43.) Gonyea later pleaded guilty to (1) two counts of
bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a)
(“Section 2113(a)”) and (2) two counts of using a
firearm during and in relation to the commission of a crime
of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)
(“Section 924(c)(1)(A)”). (See Resp.,
ECF No. 6, PageID.43; United States v. Gonyea, No.
94-cr-80346, 2012 WL 5205874, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Oct. 22,
2012).) The “crimes of violence” underlying the
two Section 924(c)(1)(A) convictions were Gonyea's two
alleged bank robberies. (Id.) Per Gonyea's plea
agreement and the sentencing guidelines, the Court sentenced
Gonyea to 351 months' imprisonment. (Id.)
April 15, 2019, Gonyea filed a petition for habeas corpus
under Section 2241. (See Pet., ECF No. 1.) He argues
that in light of recent Supreme Court rulings, his bank
robberies were not “crimes of violence” under
Section 924(c)(1)(A). (See id., PageID.9-19 (citing,
among other cases, Mathis v. United States, 136
S.Ct. 2243 (2016)).) Gonyea also argues that his
“25-years in mandatory minimums for two [Section]
924(c) convictions constitutes cruel and unusual punishment
in violation of his Eighth Amendment Rights of the U.S.
Constitution.”(Id., PageID.19-27.) For the
reasons explained below, the Court disagrees and therefore
DENIES Gonyea's Petition.
924(c)(1)(A) “prohibits using a firearm in furtherance
of a crime of violence.” Deatrick v. Sherry,
451 Fed.Appx. 562, 565 (6th Cir. 2011). For purposes of
Section 924(c)(1)(A), a “crime of violence” is a
felony that either:
(A) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened
use of physical force against the person or property of
(B) that by its nature, involves a substantial risk that
physical force against the person or property of another may
be used in the course of committing the offense.
18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3). Subsection (A) of the definition
is known as the “elements clause, ” while
Subsection (B) is called the “residual clause.”
See Knight v. United States, 936 F.3d 495,
497 (6th Cir. 2019). The Supreme Court recently invalidated
the residual clause as unconstitutionally vague. See
United States v. Davis, 139 S.Ct. 2319 (2019). But an
offense is still a “crime of violence” if it
satisfies the elements clause. See, e.g.,
Knight, 936 F.3d at 497 (holding that assault and
robbery of a postal employee constituted a “crime of
violence” because it satisfied the elements clause).
Thus, the question posed by Gonyea's attack on his
Section 924(c)(1)(A) convictions is: do Gonyea's bank
robberies constitute “crimes of violence” under
the elements clause? They do.
apply a “categorial approach” to determine
whether an offense qualifies as a “crime of
violence” under the elements clause. United States
v. Rafidi, 829 F.3d 437, 444 (6th Cir. 2016).
“Under [that] approach, a court ‘focuses on the
statutory definition of the offense, rather than the manner
in which an offender may have violated the statute in a
particular circumstance.'” Id. (quoting
United States v. Denson, 728 F.3d 603, 607 (6th Cir.
2013)). “Courts use a variant of this method - labeled
(not very inventively) the ‘modified categorical
approach' - when a prior conviction is for violating a
so-called ‘divisible statute,' which sets out one
or more elements of the offense in the alternative.”
Id. (quotation omitted). A court applying the
modified categorical approach “consult[s] a limited
class of documents, such as indictments and jury
instructions, to determine which alternative formed the basis
of the defendant's prior conviction.” Descamps
v. United States, 570 U.S. 254, 257 (2013).
Court applies the modified categorical approach here because
Section 2113(a) “is divisible.” Johnson v.
United States, No. 18-6080, 2019 WL 193916, at *2 (6th
Cir. Jan. 4, 2019). More specifically, Section 2113(a)
consists of two separate paragraphs that set out elements of
the offense in two alternatives. The first paragraph of
Section 2113(a) prohibits robbing or attempting to rob a bank
by force and violence or by intimidation:
Whoever, by force and violence, or by intimidation, takes, or
attempts to take, from the person or presence of another, or
obtains or attempts to obtain by extortion any property or
money or any other thing of value belonging to, or in the
care, custody, control, management, or ...