Williams v. United States of America
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn on 1/30/17. (SMH)
2017 Jan-30 PM 01:27
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JOSHUA IKEEM WILLIAMS,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
CASE NO. 7:16-CV-8123-SLB
CRIM. CASE NO. 7:14-CR-0128-SLB-SGC
This case is presently pending before the court on petitioner Joshua Ikeem Williams’s
Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in
Federal Custody [hereinafter Motion to Vacate]. (Doc. 1; crim. doc. 29.)1 Citing Johnson
v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), Williams contends that he was improperly
sentenced under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Because binding Eleventh Circuit precedent bars
Williams’s claims on the merits, the court assumes that his Motion to Vacate is timely filed
and is not procedurally barred. For the reasons set forth below, the court finds that
Williams’s Motion to Vacate is due to be denied and his petition dismissed without notice
to the Government. See 28 U.S.C. 2255(b).2
Citations to documents in the court’s record in petitioner’s Motion to Vacate appear
as “(Doc. __).” Citations to documents in the court’s record in the criminal proceedings
against petitioner, Case No. 7:14-CR-0128-SLB-SGC, appear as “(Crim. Doc. __).” Page
number citations refer to the page numbers assigned to the document by the court’s CM/ECF
electronic filing system.
“Unless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the
prisoner is entitled to no relief, the court shall cause notice thereof to be served upon the
On April 30, 2014, an Indictment was filed against Williams. (Crim. doc. 1.) The
Indictment charged Williams with two counts of bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
2113(a), three counts of armed bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and (d), and
two counts of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence (armed bank robbery) in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). (Id.) Pursuant to a Plea Agreement with the
Government, Williams pled guilty to all counts. (Crim. doc. 8; crim. doc. 16.) He was
sentenced to 12 months on each count of bank robbery and armed bank robbery with the
sentences to be served concurrently. (Crim. doc. 16 at 2.) On Count Four, charging
brandishing a firearm during the armed bank robbery set forth in Count Three, Williams was
sentenced to 84 months to be served consecutively to all other counts. (Id.) He received 144
months on Count Six, charging Williams brandished a firearm during the armed bank
robbery charged in Count Five; this sentence was to be served consecutively to the sentence
received for all other counts. (Id.) Williams’s “total custodial sentence” was 240 months.
Williams’s conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal. (Crim. doc. 28.)
On June 29, 2016, Williams, who is proceeding pro se, filed the instant Motion to
Vacate. (Crim. doc. 29; doc. 1.) In his Motion to Vacate, Williams challenges his
conviction under § 924(c) based on Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015); he
United States attorney, grant a prompt hearing thereon, determine the issues and make
findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect thereto.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).
[P]etitioner’s 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) conviction only qualifies as a crime of
violence under the Residual Clause to that section of the statute. In light of
the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. United States, which held that
the Residual Clause to the ACCA statute is Unconstitutional[.] [T]herefore
it’s void for vagueness under the due process clause.
(Doc. 1 at 4.) Williams argues that armed bank robbery is not a crime of violence § 924(c).
(See generally doc. 2.) Williams contends his Motion to Vacate is timely based on the
Johnson decision.3 (Id. at 2.)
In Johnson, the Supreme Court held that definition of a “violent felony” set forth in
the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act [“ACCA”] , 18 U.S.C. §
924(e)(2)(B)(ii), was void for vagueness. Johnson, 135 S. Ct. at 2563. The Court also held,
“Today's decision does not call into question application of the [ACCA] to the four
enumerated offenses, or the remainder of the [ACCA’s] definition of a violent felony.” Id.
The decision did not address the definition of a crime of violence found in § 924(c)(3).
Williams was convicted of two counts of brandishing a firearm during a crime of
violence in violation of 28 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii) and § 924(c)(1)(C)(i), which state:
(c)(1)(A) Except to the extent that a greater minimum sentence is otherwise
provided by this subsection or by any other provision of law, any person who,
during and in relation to any crime of violence . . .(including a crime of
violence . . . that provides for an enhanced punishment if committed by the use
of a deadly or dangerous weapon or device) for which the person may be
prosecuted in a court of the United States, uses or carries a firearm, or who,
in furtherance of any such crime, possesses a firearm, shall, in addition to the
punishment provided for such crime of violence . . . –
Johnson was decided on June 26, 2015. June 26, 2016, was on a Sunday; therefore,
claims based on Johnson had to be filed on or before June 27, 2016. Williams signed his
Motion to Vacate on June 24, 2016.
(ii) if the firearm is brandished, be sentenced to a term of
imprisonment of not less than 7 years . . . .
(C) In the case of a second or subsequent conviction under this subsection, the
person shall –
(i) be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 25 years.
18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii), (C)(i).4 “[N]o term of imprisonment imposed on a person
under this subsection shall run concurrently with any other term of imprisonment imposed
on the person, including any term of imprisonment imposed for the crime of violence . . .
during which the firearm was used, carried, or possessed.” Id. (c)(1)(D)(ii). The Act defines
“crime of violence” as –
. . . an offense that is a felony and –
(A) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of
physical force against the person or property of another, or
(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) is referred to as the force clause and subsection (B)
is referred to as the residual clause.
In cases binding on this court, the Eleventh Circuit held that, “[e]ven assuming that
Johnson invalidated § 924(c)’s residual clause [§ 924(c)(3)(B)], that conclusion would not
For reasons not at issue in this case, Williams was sentenced to less than 25 years on
his conviction under § 924(c)(1)(C)(i).
assist [a defendant whose] underlying conviction on which his § 924(c) conviction was based
. . . [met] the requirements that the force clause in § 924(c)(3)(A) sets out for a qualifying
underlying offense.” In re Smith, 829 F.3d 1276, 1280 (11th Cir. 2016). Indeed, the
Eleventh Circuit has specifically held that armed bank robbery, 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and (d),
is a crime of violence under the force clause, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(A). In re Hines, 824
F.3d 1334, 1336-37 (11th Cir. 2016). The court held:
. . . Johnson rendered the residual clause of § 924(e) invalid. It spoke
not at all about the validity of the definition of a crime of violence found in §
924(c)(3). Further, our Court has not held that Johnson invalidates §
924(c)(3)(B). However, even [if we] were . . . to extrapolate from the
Johnson holding a conclusion that § 924(c)(3)(B) was also unconstitutional,
it would not help Hines because his § 924(c) conviction on Count 2 was
explicitly based on his companion Count 1 conviction for armed bank robbery,
in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and (d). And a conviction for armed bank
robbery clearly meets the requirement for an underlying felony offense, as set
out in §924(c)(3)(A), which requires the underlying offense to include as an
element, “the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against
the person or property of another.”
Id. (emphasis added; footnotes omitted).
The court finds Williams’s claim is indistinguishable from the claim in Hines.
Therefore, the court finds that Williams is not entitled to relief from his sentence based on
Johnson. In light of his plea of guilty to two counts of brandishing a firearm during an
armed bank robbery, as well as binding Eleventh Circuit caselaw holding that armed bank
robbery is a crime of violence under the force clause, 28 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(A), Williams
cannot show that his sentence violates the Constitution or laws of the United States. See 28
U.S.C. § 2255(a). His Motion to Vacate based on Johnson is due to be denied.
Moreover, the court finds the Motion to Vacate and the files and records of his case
conclusively show that Williams is not entitled to relief; therefore, his habeas petition will
be dismissed without notice to the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).
Based on the foregoing, the Motion to Vacate, filed by petitioner Joshua Ikeem
Williams, (doc. 1; crim. doc. 29), is due to be denied. An Order denying the Motion to
Vacate and dismissing Williams’s habeas petition will be entered contemporaneously with
this Memorandum Opinion.
CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
Rule 11 of the Rules Governing § 2255 Proceedings, provides, “The district court
must issue or deny a certificate of appealability when it enters a final order adverse to the
applicant.” The applicant for § 2255 relief “cannot take an appeal unless a circuit justice or
a circuit or district judge issues a certificate of appealability under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c).”
Fed. R. App. P. 22(b)(1). And, the “certificate of appealability may issue . . . only if the
applicant has made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 2253(c)(2)(emphasis added).
To make a substantial showing of the denial of a
constitutional right, the applicant must show “that reasonable jurists could debate whether
(or, for that matter, agree that) the petition should have been resolved in a different manner
or that the issues presented were adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further.”
Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 336 (2003)(citations and internal quotations omitted).
Williams’s habeas petition is barred by binding Eleventh Circuit precedent;
reasonable jurists could not disagree. He has not demonstrated that the issue he raises is
reasonably debatable and/or deserves encouragement to proceed further. Therefore, issuance
of a certificate of appealability is not warranted in this case.
DONE this 30th day of January, 2017.
SHARON LOVELACE BLACKBURN
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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