Deiter v. United States of America
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS by Chief Magistrate Judge Karen B. Molzen. Objections to R&R due by 5/8/2017. Add 3 days to the deadline if service is by mailing it to the person's last known address (or means described in Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(b)(2)(D) and (F)); if service is by electronic means, no additional days are added. (Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(d); Fed. R. Crim. P. 45(c).) (KBM)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
No. CIV 15-1181 MV/KBM
No. CR 10-0622 MV
WALTER LEE DEITER,
PROPOSED FINDINGS OF FACT AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION
THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant-Movant Walter Lee
Deiter’s (“Deiter’s”) Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence Pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2255.1 Doc. 3. By an Order of Reference filed June 30, 2016, this matter was
referred to the undersigned to conduct hearings, if warranted, including evidentiary
hearings, and to perform any legal analysis required to recommend to the Court an
ultimate disposition of this habeas action. Doc. 14. The Court held oral argument as to
certain legal issues in Deiter’s § 2255 Motion on November 16, 2016, and thereafter
permitted supplemental briefing by the parties. See Doc. 19. The Court is satisfied that
an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary, because Deiter’s Motion and the record of the
case conclusively establish that he is not entitled to relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b)
(providing that a court must hold an evidentiary hearing on a § 2255 motion “[u]nless the
motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is
Citations to “Doc.” Refer to docket numbers filed in Civil Case No. 15-1181 MV/KBM. Citations
to “CR Doc.” refer to the attendant criminal docket in Criminal Case No. 10-0622 MV.
entitled to no relief”). Having reviewed all the submissions of the parties and the
relevant law, and being otherwise fully advised in the premises, the Court recommends
that Deiter’s § 2255 Motion be denied.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
At 12:38 a.m. on November 12, 2009, Albuquerque Police Department (“APD”)
Officer Patricia Whelan was dispatched to an Albuquerque apartment complex to
investigate an argument between a man and a woman. CR Doc. 224 at 192. Officer
Whelan testified that upon her arrival at the apartment complex, she observed a male
and female in the middle of the street, who separated upon seeing law enforcement and
began walking in different directions. Id. at 194. According to Officer Whelan, she
followed the male, who was later identified as Deiter, while another officer followed the
female, who was later identified as D’Leah Harris. Id. at 196, 200-01.
Deiter proceeded to the nearby apartment complex, a two-story structure with an
open breezeway. Id. at 196-97. Officer Whelan lost sight of him for a short time when he
went behind a staircase; however, minutes later, she saw him “pop up” on the
breezeway of the second floor of the apartment building. Id. at 197-201. According to
Officer Whelan, Deiter appeared nervous and was “looking kind of up and down the
breezeway.” Id. at 199. Officer Whelan instructed him to come down the stairs to speak
to the officers. Id. She testified that before Deiter came down the stairs, he made a
“kind of squatting, bending motion” but that she was unable to observe his hands
because of a three to four-foot wall that was in front of him. Id. at 201. When Deiter
eventually came down the stairs to speak with officers, Officer Whalen asked APD
Officer Sammy Marquez to go to the second floor breezeway to see “what was
dropped.” Id. at 204-05. As Officer Marquez began to climb the stairs to the second
floor, Deiter, who was standing near Officer Whelan and another officer at the time,
began to run. Id. at 207. APD Sergeant Glenn St. Onge fired a Taser at Deiter, which
struck him in the back. Id. at 210. Deiter fell to the ground, and Officer Whalen
handcuffed him. Id. at 211.
Meanwhile, Officer Marquez’s inspection of the second-floor breezeway revealed
an abandoned holster containing a revolver. Id. at 132, 139-40. At Sergeant St. Onge’s
direction, Officer Marquez did not touch the weapon. Id. at 140-42. Dean Ferguson, a
civilian crime scene specialist employed by APD, responded to the scene because of
the deployment of a Taser and also so that he could identify, collect, and preserve
physical evidence, including the revolver. Id. at 142-43, 200-01, 205, 208-09. Mr.
Ferguson photographed the scene and processed the firearm while wearing gloves. Id.
at 206, 209, 213, 217, 219. Officer Marquez, in turn, checked the serial number of the
firearm, also while wearing gloves. Id. at 144-45. Paramedics were called to inspect
Deiter and to remove the Taser prongs. Id. at 212.
The firearm and holster discovered by Officer Marquez were sent to the APD
Crime Laboratory for DNA and fingerprint testing. Id. at 114-15, 124. A forensic
scientist employed by the laboratory examined the holster and firearm. Id. at 123-25. At
trial, she testified that she found a mixture of DNA on the firearm, indicating that two
persons had deposited DNA on it but that Deiter was the major contributor. Id. at 14446. The holster, on the other hand, contained only Deiter’s DNA. Id. at 140. The
scientist testified that the probability that another Caucasian person would have the
same DNA profile as Deiter was one in 140 sextillion. Id. at 151-52.
Deiter was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and § 924(a)(2). CR Doc. 2. During litigation of his criminal case in
federal court, he was represented by four different attorneys. First, Assistant Federal
Public Defender Michael Keefe represented him for approximately 13 months. CR Doc.
9. Next, Charles Knoblauch was appointed to replace Mr. Keefe, and he continued to do
so for approximately five months. CR Doc. 56. Next, Ryan Villa and his co-counsel,
Josh Ewing, represented Deiter. CR Doc. 88. Mr. Villa and Mr. Ewing engaged in
pretrial motions practice, including filing a motion to compel production of DNA
elimination standards and a motion seeking an order for a jury instruction regarding lost
evidence; they also responded to the Government’s pretrial motions. See, e.g., CR
Docs. 93, 97, 106, 119, 121, 125, 127, 129, 141, 143, 144, 145,147, 152.
Mr. Villa represented Deiter throughout his jury trial, which took place in July and
August of 2012. During that trial, the Government called eight witnesses to testify, and
Mr. Villa cross-examined each witness. See CR Docs. 224-27. Two DNA analysts, both
recognized by the Court as expert witnesses, also testified, one for the prosecution and
one for the defense. See CR Docs. 226-27.
Deiter’s DNA expert, Michael Spence, used a PowerPoint presentation to explain
the secondary transfer of DNA. CR Doc. 227 at 18-30. Dr. Spence testified that “it was
within the realm of possibilities” that there was a “transfer event,” involving, for example,
saliva, blood, or sweat, whereby Deiter’s DNA was secondarily transferred to the firearm
and holster following the officers’ physical contact with him. Id. at 18-44. Even so, Deiter
was ultimately convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, apparently for the
second time in the District of New Mexico. Compare CR Doc. 204 with United States v.
Deiter, 00cr1466 MV.
Deiter’s Presentence Report detailed his criminal history, which consisted of 13
prior convictions. CR Doc. 302-1, PSR, at ¶ 27-39. His applicable guideline range was
calculated as 210 to 262 months based on a total offense level of 33 and a criminal
history category of V. See id. at ¶ 96. Deiter was determined to be an armed career
criminal under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) and was, thus, subject to a
mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years and up to life imprisonment. See id. at ¶ 43,
95. According to the Presentence Report, the predicate offenses that qualified Deiter
under the ACCA were: 1) a state court conviction for distribution of cocaine; 2) a 1987
federal conviction for bank robbery; and 3) a state court conviction for possession of a
controlled substance with intent (cocaine). See id. at ¶ 22, 38.
Deiter attaches to the reply brief in this habeas proceeding the Indictment and
Judgment from his 1987 Florida federal bank robbery conviction, asserting that he pled
guilty to 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and § 2. See Doc. 15, Ex. A & B. While the Judgment
shows that he pled guilty to “§ 2113(a)(2) as charged in count 2 of the indictment,” there
is, in fact, no subsection (a)(2) contained within the Federal Bank Robbery Act found at
§ 2113(a). See § 2113(a). Count 2 of the Indictment charges Deiter with violations of
“Sections 2113(a) and 2.” Doc. 15, Ex. A.
Broadly speaking, § 2113(a) criminalizes taking or attempting to take by force
and violence, or by intimidation from the person or presence of another property
belonging to or in the custody of a banking institution. See 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a). Section
2 of Title 18, in turn, provides that “[w]hoever commits an offense against the United
States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is
punishable as a principal.” 18 U.S.C. § 2. Thus, it appears that in Count 2 of the
Indictment Deiter was charged with aiding and abetting a federal bank robbery, to which
he pled guilty. This understanding squares with factual basis provided in Deiter’s
Presentence Report; that is, at the time of the underlying bank robbery, Deiter and
another individual entered Florida National Bank, where his co-defendant placed a
briefcase on the counter and handed the teller a note instructing her to give him
everything in the bank drawer. CR Doc. 302-1, PSR, at 11-12. Although Deiter
apparently did not approach the counter, the teller observed him enter the bank with the
co-defendant and noticed that he appeared to signal the co-defendant by snapping his
At his sentencing on January 23, 2014, the Honorable Martha Vasquez
sentenced Deiter pursuant to the ACCA but granted him a variance for a belowguidelines sentence to 180 months for being a felon in possession of a firearm. See CR
Doc. 266, 268. Under the ACCA, this sentence was the minimum sentence that Judge
Vazquez could lawfully impose. Indeed, the sentence was 30 months less than the lowend of the calculated guideline range.
Deiter filed a timely Notice of Appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and
Attorney D. Eric Hannum represented him throughout the appellate proceedings. See
CR Doc. 280. The issues presented on appeal were: (1) whether the district court
abused its discretion by denying Defendant’s motion to compel DNA samples from the
police officers, and (2) whether the statute prohibiting a felon from possessing a firearm
and ammunition was unconstitutional. United States v. Deiter, 576 F. App’x 814
(10th Cir. 2014). On September 10, 2014, Deiter’s conviction and sentence were
affirmed by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. CR Doc. 283. He did not petition for
certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.
As to Deiter’s contention that the District Court abused its discretion when it
denied his motion to compel DNA samples, the Tenth Circuit reasoned that “[t]here was
little need for the samples because Mr. Deiter was able to advance his defense theory
of secondary transfer without them.” Id. at 816. Additionally, the court noted that the
production of DNA samples may not have supported his defense theory and that even if
the officer’s DNA was found on the firearm and/or holster, it would not definitively
proven that his DNA came from the officer’s handling of the items rather than his own.
Id. Finally, the court explained that compelling the officers to provide DNA samples
implicated privacy interests and that Deiter had provided insufficient justification to
intrude on those interests. Id.
II. Legal Standard
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a),
[a] prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of
Congress claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the
sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United
States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence,
or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or
is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the court which
imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.
A § 2255 motion must allege facts that, if proven, would warrant relief from his
conviction or sentence. See Hatch v. Oklahoma, 58 F.3d 1447, 1471 (10th Cir. 1995).
Collateral review under § 2255 “is not an alternative to appellate review for
claims that could have been presented on direct appeal but were not.” United States v.
Megleby, 420 F.3d 1136, 1139 (10th Cir. 2005). However, the movant may overcome
this procedural bar by showing either of two well-recognized exceptions. See United
States v. Cervini, 379 F.3d 987, 990 (10th Cir. 2004). First, he must show good cause
for failing to raise the issue earlier as well as actual prejudice to his defense. Id. at 990.
Cause may be established under this exception by demonstrating ineffective assistance
of counsel. United States v. Wiseman, 297 F.3d 975, 979 (10th Cir. 2002). Otherwise,
the movant must show that failing to consider the federal claims will result in “a
fundamental miscarriage of justice.” Cervini, 379 F.3d at 990.
In his § 2255 Motion, Deiter asserts various claims of ineffective assistance of
counsel, including that Mr. Villa’s performance was deficient when he 1) introduced
excerpts of a belt tape transcript but failed to cross-examine the person in the transcript
who reported seeing a man with a firearm, 2) failed to obtain EMT reports documenting
Deiter’s injuries and failed to call EMT personnel as witnesses, and 3) failed to argue
that Deiter’s prior bank robbery conviction did not qualify as a predicate offense under
the ACCA. Doc. 3 at 14-17. Additionally, Deiter argues that Mr. Hannum, his appellate
counsel, was ineffective when he filed an appellate brief without Deiter’s final approval.
Id. at 6. Finally, Deiter insists that his sentencing enhancement under the ACCA is
unconstitutional under United States v. Johnson, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). Id. at 8-9.
A. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claims
Plaintiff’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims are governed by Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). In Strickland, the Supreme Court devised a two-step
inquiry to determine whether a lawyer’s poor performance deprived an accused of his
Sixth Amendment right to assistance of counsel. Id. at 686-87. In order to establish an
ineffective assistance claim, a movant must demonstrate (1) “that counsel’s
performance was deficient,” and (2) “that the deficient performance prejudiced [his]
defense.” Foster v. Ward, 182 F.3d 1177, 1184 (10th Cir. 1999). To establish deficient
performance, a movant must show that his attorney made “errors so serious that
counsel was not functioning as the counsel guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth
Amendment,” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 390 (2000), and that his legal
“representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness,” Strickland, 466
U.S. at 688. To establish prejudice, a movant “must show that there is a reasonable
probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the results of the proceeding
would have been different.” Id. at 694. A reasonable probability is “a probability
sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.” Id. The prejudice component
focuses on the question of whether counsel’s allegedly deficient performance renders
the result of the trial unreliable or the proceeding fundamentally unfair. Williams, 529
U.S. at 393. Courts may, if they prefer, analyze the prejudice prong first and exclusively.
See, e.g., Scoggin v. Kaiser, 186 F.3d 1203, 1207 (10th Cir. 1999).
i. Belt Tape Transcripts and Witnesses
On January 5, 2016, the Court ordered the United States to file a response to
Deiter’s § 2255 Motion, which it did on March 7, 2016. In its response, the Government
referenced the transcript of Deiter’s jury trial, particularly portions containing the trial
testimony of Officer Patricia Whelan. See Doc. 7. Deiter moved the Court to provide him
with a copy of the trial transcript. Doc. 8. The Court granted Deiter’s motion in part,
ordering the Clerk to provide, at no cost to Deiter, the portion of the trial transcript
containing the testimony of Officer Whelan. See Doc. 10 at 2. Deiter, who was
appointed counsel to represent him in connection with his § 2255 Motion, filed a reply to
his § 2255 Motion on July 16, 2016, providing references to the trial transcript to support
Deiter’s first ineffective assistance claim now ripe for review relates to Mr. Villa’s
decision to read aloud excerpts from an excluded belt tape transcript and his failure to
cross-examine the witness whose statements were recorded therein. In contrast to
Deiter’s assertions in his § 2255 Motion, the Government clarifies that neither the belt
tape transcript nor the belt tape were actually entered into evidence. Doc. 7 at 14; see
also CR Doc. 224 at 2-3, 250; CR Doc. 225 at 2-3; CR Doc. 226 at 2.
According to Deiter, Mr. Villa’s reference to the belt tape transcript led to portions
of it being admitted into evidence without objection, by which he claims he suffered
prejudice. Doc. 3 at 14, 15. Relatedly, he contends that Mr. Villa’s failure to crossexamine the witness in that belt tape who reported seeing a man with a firearm on the
night in question was also ineffective. Id. at 14.
Officer Whelan’s trial testimony reveals that she could not recall whether there
was a witness at the subject apartment complex who observed something relevant on
the night in question. CR Doc. 224, at 243-44. Despite a ruling from Judge Vazquez
that Officer Whelan’s belt tape transcript was not admissible, other than for
impeachment purposes, CR Doc. 224 at 247, Mr. Villa asked Officer Whelan whether
reviewing a transcript of that belt tape recording might refresh her recollection. Id. at
244. Officer Whelan responded that it would. Id. At a bench conference requested by
the Government, Mr. Villa clarified that he did not seek admission of the transcript and,
instead, only intended to use it to refresh Officer Whelan’s recollection and to
demonstrate certain steps that she failed to take in her investigation. Id. at 250. Over
the Government’s objection, the Court permitted Mr. Villa to use the transcript in this
way. Id. at 254. The portion of the transcript that Mr. Villa read into the record included
the following statement by a witness:
I was sitting on my bed watching a movie and I didn’t open the door or
anything. I looked in, I just heard him yelling and I looked out the peephole
and he was yelling at her and all this other stuff and he had a gun at this
point, I didn’t go outside or anything, I didn’t want to get involved.
Doc. 225 at 7. Mr. Villa went on to ask Officer Whelan whether, according to the
transcript, the witness had been asked to provide her name or address. Id. at 9. Officer
Whelan admitted that the transcript did not include a request that the witness provide
such information. Id.
Deiter maintains that instead of reading aloud from the very transcript that Mr.
Villa had earlier fought to exclude, he “should have simply refreshed Officer Whelan’s
memory with copies of the transcripts rather than reading any portion of it into the
record.” Doc. 15 at 10-11. He suggests that this transcript, which the Court had
previously determined would not be admitted, was “the only evidence from any witness
that positively placed a man in possession of a firearm at the scene.” Id. at 11. Deiter
further insists that Mr. Villa failed to cure his error by testing the witness’ out-of-court
statements through cross-examination. Id.
In support of his contentions, Deiter cites persuasive authority from the Supreme
Court of South Dakota: Freeman v. Leapley, 519 N.W.2d 615 (S.D. 1994). Doc. 15 at
11. In Freeman, a state habeas petitioner asserted that his trial counsel was ineffective
in a criminal prosecution for grand theft of an automobile. 519 N.W.2d at 616. The court
agreed that his counsel’s performance was deficient when he offered into evidence a
police report with hearsay evidence inculpating the petitioner in the car theft. Id. at 618.
While the court acknowledged that the decision to introduce the report was a “tactical
decision [made] in an effort to attack the thoroughness of the police officers’
investigation,” it nevertheless found the approach to be unreasonable under the facts of
that case. Id. at 618. The court reasoned: “[d]efense counsel could have attacked the
thoroughness of the investigation without admitting the police report. By offering the
written statement into evidence, she presented the jury with documentary evidence
containing a statement that [the petitioner] stole the car.” Id. Despite its finding of
ineffectiveness, however, the court ultimately determined that the petitioner had not
been denied a fair trial, as the evidence against him was overwhelming. Id. at 618-19.
Here, the Government notes that during her trial testimony Officer Whelan had
difficulty remembering specific details of the incident, which had occurred more than two
and a half years earlier. Doc. 7 at 13 (citing Crim. Doc. 224 at 190-246). The
Government recounts that after she testified on cross-examination that she did not
remember certain detains of her investigation, Mr. Villa refreshed her recollection with a
portion of the belt tape transcript involving a witness who had reported seeing a man
with a firearm yelling at a woman. According to the Government, Mr. Villa crossexamined Officer Whelan about her failure to memorialize the witness’ name and
address and to determine if Deiter might have been the same person who was allegedly
observed with a firearm. Doc. 7 at 14.
The Court must resolve two ineffectiveness claims related to Officer Whelan’s
belt tape transcript: first, whether Mr. Villa’s representation was deficient when he read
aloud from the transcript and, second and relatedly, whether his representation was
deficient when he failed to cross-examine the witness whose statements were recorded
in that belt tape transcript. The Court finds that the latter claim is much easier to resolve
than the former. Mr. Villa simply could not have cross-examined the witness whose
statement was recorded on the belt tape. As the Government explains, she was never
called as a witness in the trial.
Deiter’s first ineffectiveness claim is a closer question. With the benefit of
hindsight, Mr. Villa’s decision to read aloud from the belt tape transcript seems
somewhat counterproductive. After all, he effectively highlighted a statement by an
unknown witness, to which the jury most likely would not have otherwise been privy,
that seemingly corroborated the Government’s allegations that Deiter possessed a
firearm during the course of an altercation with D’Leah Harris.
Even so, Mr. Villa’s actions in this case are distinguishable from those of trial
counsel in Freeman. Unlike counsel in Freeman, Mr. Villa stopped short of offering the
belt tape transcript into evidence, which meant that the transcript was not available to
the jury during its deliberations. Further, there is no question that he read portions of
the belt tape transcript with the aim of demonstrating that Officer Whelan’s investigation
was less than thorough, which in the Court’s view, he seems to have established to
some extent. Ultimately, the Court finds that the fact that the transcript was not actually
admitted into evidence, coupled with Mr. Villa’s use of what is generally a sound trial
strategy – that is, to attack the thoroughness of the law enforcement investigation – is
enough to characterize his decision to read the belt tape transcript as a reasonable one,
especially given the strong presumption against a finding of ineffectiveness. See
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689.
Even if the presiding judge disagrees and finds Mr. Villa’s decision to read aloud
the transcript unreasonable, Deiter cannot show prejudice in the face of the evidence
presented against him. To summarize: the jury heard testimony that Officer Whelan,
responding to a middle-of-the-night call regarding an altercation in a parking lot,
observed Deiter nervously squatting behind a wall on a second-floor apartment
breezeway. When she dispatched a fellow officer to determine what Deiter may have
dropped on that breezeway, Deiter began to run. The fellow officer’s inspection of the
breezeway revealed a holster containing a revolver, which officers testified they did not
touch without the use of gloves. A forensic scientist testified that DNA testing revealed
that the firearm contained the DNA of two individuals, with Deiter being the major
contributor, and that the holster contained only Deiter’s DNA. The scientist also testified
that the probability that another Caucasian person would have the same DNA profile as
Deiter was one in 140 sextillion.
Officer Whelan’s observations, combined with this strong, scientific evidence
linking Deiter to the firearm, can only be described as overwhelming evidence that
Deiter did in fact possess the firearm in question.
ii. EMT Reports and Possible Witness Testimony
Deiter also maintains in his § 2255 Motion that Mr. Villa was ineffective by failing
to obtain EMT reports documenting injuries that he sustained when tased by law
enforcement and by failing to call as witnesses EMT employees who could testify
regarding the extent of his injuries. Doc. 3 at 16-17. The role of the EMTs in this case
appears to have been limited to their removal of the Taser prongs from Deiter and their
medical clearance of him to be taken into custody.
The Government notes that neither party called any EMTs as witnesses at trial,
arguing that their testimony was not relevant to the issues before the jury. Deiter
counters, insisting that the testimony could have supported the secondary DNA transfer
theory espoused by Dr. Spence. As the Government notes, however, Dr. Spence made
no suggestion that testimony by EMT personnel would be helpful in evaluating whether
secondary DNA transfer actually occurred.
The Court is unwilling to characterize Mr. Villa’s decision not to elicit testimony
from EMTs or to obtain EMT reports as ineffective. See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 691 (“In
any ineffectiveness case, a particular decision not to investigate must be directly
assessed for reasonableness in all the circumstances, applying a heavy measure of
deference to counsel’s judgments.”) This is especially true where there is nothing in the
record to indicate that the testimony or reports of responding EMT personnel would
have shown significant injuries to Deiter or otherwise supported his secondary DNA
transfer theory. Moreover, as noted above, Deiter was simply not prejudiced by Mr.
Villa’s failure to elicit EMT testimony or reports, given the overwhelming evidence
iii. Appellate Attorney’s Filing of Brief
Deiter’s final claim of ineffective assistance of counsel is targeted at his appellate
counsel, Mr. Hannum. More particularly, he contends that Mr. Hannum failed to obtain
his final approval before filing his appellate brief, which he claims deprived him of due
process. Doc. 3 at 6. Once again, the appellate brief filed by Mr. Hannum asserted that
the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to compel DNA samples from the officers
on the scene and that 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) was unconstitutional. See United States v.
Deiter, 576 F. App’x 814 (2014). Deiter does not provide any legal support for his
assertion that Mr. Hannum should have conferred with him more extensively before
filing his appellate brief.
True, an appellate counsel’s failure to raise certain issues on appeal may
sometimes constitute ineffective assistance of counsel, see Ellis v. Hargett, 302 F.3d
1182, 1189 (10th Cir. 2002). Here, however, Deiter neglects to explain how the outcome
of his appeal would have been any different had he personally reviewed or provided
input regarding the issues addressed in the brief drafted and filed by Mr. Hannum. While
Deiter does suggest in his reply brief that Mr. Hannum was ineffective by failing to
challenge the constitutionality of his sentence enhancement under the residual clause of
the ACCA, there is nothing to indicate that Deiter himself could have somehow foreseen
the action that the United States Supreme Court would take a year later in Johnson v.
United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015) (“Johnson II”). Indeed, it was Deiter’s counsel, not
Deiter, who was in the best position to evaluate legal arguments and to make strategic
decisions about which issues should be raised on appeal. Further, as it turns out, there
was no prejudice to Deiter from the omission of a Johnson II-like argument from his
appellate brief; after all, the Court will fully consider herein the constitutionality of his
sentencing enhancement under the ACCA in light of Johnson II.
B. Johnson II Claims
The final issue addressed by Deiter in his § 2255 Motion involves his sentencing
enhancement under the ACCA following Johnson II.
The ACCA enhances sentences for those who qualify. It provides:
In the case of a person who violates section 922(g) of this title and has
three previous convictions by any court referred to in section 922(g)(1) of
this title for a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both, committed
on occasions different from one another, such person shall be . . .
imprisoned not less than fifteen years . . . .
18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). A “serious drug offense” is either a federal drug offense “for
which a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years or more is prescribed by law” or a
state law offense “involving manufacturing, distributing or possessing with intent to
manufacture or distribute a controlled substance . . . for which a maximum term of
imprisonment of ten years or more is prescribed by law.” See § 924(e)(2)(A). The Act
defines “violent felony” as any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding
one year that “has an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical
force against the person of another” (i.e. force clause2) or “is burglary, arson, or
extortion, involves use of explosives” (i.e. enumerated offenses clause) “or otherwise
involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another” (i.e.
residual clause). § 924(e)(2)(B).
The residual clause of § 924(e)’s “violent felony” definition was determined to be
unconstitutionally vague in Johnson II.3 Accordingly, individuals may not be subject to
the ACCA if their prior convictions qualified as “violent felonies” only under the residual
clause in § 924(e)(B)(ii). Id. Here, the parties agree that whether or not Deiter’s
predicate bank robbery conviction qualifies as a “violent felony” hinges upon the
Some courts refer to this same clause as the “elements clause.” See, e.g., United States v.
Harris, 844 F.3d 1260, 1262 (10th Cir. 2017).
In contrast, the Supreme Court held in Johnson v. United States, 559 U.S. 133 (2010)
(“Johnson I”) that the Florida felony offense of battery by “[a]ctually and intentionally touch[ing]”
another person does not has “as an element the use . . . of physical force against the person of
another” and thus does not constitute a “violent felony” under § 924(e)(1).
application of the ACCA’s force clause – that is, whether it “has as an element the use,
attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another.” See
§ 924(e)(2)(B)(i). The Government maintains that bank robbery remains a “violent
felony” under the ACCA’s force clause following Johnson II; Deiter contends otherwise.
i. Whether Federal Bank Robbery Satisfies the ACCA’s Force Clause
When determining whether an offense is a “violent felony” under the ACCA,
courts generally apply the “categorical approach,” considering only the offense’s
statutory elements and not the actual facts underlying the prior conviction. United States
v. Smith, 652 F.3d 1244, 1246 (10th Cir. 2011). Under this approach, it is unnecessary
that “every conceivable factual offense” contemplated by the statute fall within the
ACCA. Id. at 1246. Instead, courts consider whether the “conduct encompassed by the
elements of the offense, in the ordinary case, qualifies under the ACCA as a violent
When a statute contains a divisible set of elements in the alternative, only some
of which would constitute violent felonies, courts may employ the “modified categorical
approach.” Descamps v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 2276, 2281 (2013). Under this
approach, courts “look to a limited class of documents (for example, the indictment,
jury instructions, or plea agreement and colloquy) to determine what crime, with what
elements, a defendant was convicted of.” Mathis, 136 S. Ct. 2243, 2249 (2016). This
approach does not apply to statutes which “enumerate various factual means of
committing a single element.” Id. at 2249.
Here, the relevant federal statute provides:
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 possession
of, any bank, credit union, or any savings and loan association; or
Whoever enters or attempts to enter any bank, credit union, or any
savings and loan association, or any building used in whole or in part as a
bank, credit union, or as a savings and loan association, with intent to
commit in such bank, credit union, or in such savings and loan
association, or building, or part thereof, so used, any felony affecting such
bank, credit union, or such savings and loan association and in violation of
any statute of the United States, or any larceny –
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or
18 U.S.C. § 2113(a). In addition to bank robbery “by force and violence, or by
intimidation,” the statute also criminalizes obtaining or attempting to obtain property
from a bank by extortion as well as entering or attempting to enter a bank with the intent
to commit a felony affecting the bank. See id. As such, § 2113(a) seems to contain a
divisible set of elements in the alternative: (1) taking property from a bank by force and
violence or intimidation; (2) obtaining or attempting to obtain property from a bank by
extortion, or (3) entering a bank intending to commit a felony affecting the bank. See
United States v. McBride, 826 F.3d 293, 296 (6th Cir. 2016) (suggesting that § 2113(a)
is a divisible statute because, in addition to bank robbery by force and violence or
intimidation, it also criminalizes entering a bank intending to commit a felony affecting
the bank); United States v. McGuire, No. 16-3282, 2017 WL 429251, at 2 n.4 (10th Cir.
Feb. 1, 2017) (concluding that § 2113(a) “includes at least two sets of divisible
elements: (1) taking, or attempting to take, by force, violence, or intimidation, property
from a bank; and (2) entering or attempting to enter any bank, credit union, or savings
and loan association with the intent to commit a felony); United States v. McGuire, No.
16cv1166 JTM, 2016 WL 4479129 (D. Kan. Aug. 25, 2016), certificate of appealability
denied, 2017 WL 429251 (10th Cir. Feb. 1, 2017) (noting that “§ 2113(a) also includes
what is essentially a separate extortion offense,” and citing Descamps for the
proposition that the court need only consider, when determining whether federal bank
robbery qualifies under the career offender guideline’s force clause, the portion of
statute constituting generic robbery).
In any event, when applying the modified-categorical approach to Deiter’s
conviction, it is clear that he was convicted of federal bank robbery “by force, violence,
and intimidation” and not of bank robbery by extortion or of entering a bank with intent to
commit a felony. See Doc. 15, Ex. A, at 3, Ex. B. This offense has three elements:
(1) the defendant intentionally took from the person or presence of the person money or
property; (2) the money or property belonged to or was in the possession of a federallyinsured bank at the time of the taking; and (3) the defendant took the money or property
by means of force and violence or intimidation. See Tenth Circuit Pattern Jury
Instructions No. 2.77.
Deiter first argues that unarmed federal bank robbery under § 2113(a) cannot
qualify as a “violent felony” under the ACCA, because bank robbery, when committed
through intimidation, does not satisfy the force clause. He maintains that placing a
person in fear of bodily harm, as courts have interpreted bank robbery by intimidation,
does not necessarily have as an element the intentional use, attempted use, or
threatened use of physical force. He notes that the Supreme Court “set forth the
controlling definition of ‘physical force’ in Johnson I,” where it explained that “physical
force” in the context of the ACCA means “violent force – that is, force capable of
causing physical pain or injury to another person.” Doc. 15 at 4 (quoting Johnson, 559
U.S. at 140-45). Deiter also emphasizes that the language of § 2113(a) contains no
requirement that a defendant intend to intimidate and that the Eleventh Circuit, where
Deiter was convicted, “has clearly stated that federal bank robbery is a general intent
crime which requires only a showing that the defendant “knew that he was physically
taking the money,” not that he intended to use intimidation. Doc. 15 at 8; Doc. 20 at 8
(citing United States v. McCree, 225 F. App’x 860, 863 (11th Cir. 2007)). But see
United States v. Jenkins, 651 F. App’x 920 (11th Cir. 2016) (holding that § 2113(a)
qualifies as a crime of violence under the force clause of the career offender guideline).
Deiter insists that the Government, and the out-of-circuit opinions that it
references, have “misdefine[d] “intimidation” as the intentional use of an implied threat
of violent force, where the statute does not require the intentional use of explicit or
implicit force, violence or fear of injury. Doc. 20 at 10. He explains that a determination
of whether a defendant has committed bank robbery by intimidation “is guided by an
objective test focusing on the accused’s actions (whether an ordinary person would
have inferred a threat of violence). Id. at 8 (citing McCree, 225 F. App’x at 863). But
the Court is not persuaded by Deiter’s arguments.
First, the Tenth Circuit Criminal Pattern Jury Instruction 2.77 helpfully expands
upon § 2113(a)’s statutory provisions, explaining:
To take “by means of intimidation” is to say or do something in such
a way that a person of ordinary sensibilities would be fearful of
bodily harm. It is not necessary to prove that the alleged victim was
actually frightened, and neither is it necessary to show that the
behavior of the defendant was so violent that it was likely to cause
terror, panic, or hysteria. However, a taking would not be by
“means of intimidation” if the fear, if any, resulted from the alleged
victim’s own timidity rather than some intimidating conduct on the
part of the defendant. The essence of the offense is the taking of
money or property accompanied by intentional, intimidating
behavior on the part of the defendant.
Id. Thus, a conviction for federal bank robbery requires proof that a defendant engaged
in “intentional, intimidating behavior.” Further, the Tenth Circuit has defined intimidation
in the context of § 2113(a) as “an act by defendant ‘reasonably calculated to put another
in fear,’ or ‘conduct and words . . . calculated to create the impression that any
resistance or defiance by the [individual] would be met by force.’” United States v.
Lajoie, 942 F.2d 699, 701 n.5 (10th Cir. 1991) (internal citations omitted).
While federal bank robbery by force and violence or intimidation may not require
a specific intent to intimidate, see United States v. Armstrong, 1997 WL 337540, at *2
(10th Cir. June 19, 1997) (unpublished), “[t]he presence or absence of an element of
specific intent does not dispositively determine whether a prior conviction qualifies as a
violent felony under the ACCA,” United States v. Ramon Silva, 608 F.3d 663, 673 (10th
Cir. 2010). In Ramon Silva, the Tenth Circuit held that aggravated assault (i.e.
“engaging in conduct with a deadly weapon that causes the victim to believe he or she
was about to receive a battery”) constituted a “violent felony” under the ACCA, even
though the statute only required general criminal intent rather than specific intent to
cause apprehension in the victim. Ramon Silva, 608 F.3d at 669-73. According to the
court, so long as a crime requires that a defendant intentionally engaged in conduct
constituting “the threatened use of physical force,” it constitutes an offense with an
element of the threatened use of physical force under the Johnson I standard, even if
the defendant did not specifically intend to communicate such a threat. Id. at 673.
Given that intimidation occurs in the context of a bank robbery when a defendant
says or does something “in such a way that a person of ordinary sensibilities would be
fearful of bodily harm,” the Court is satisfied that federal bank robbery by intimidation
has as an element the threatened use, albeit sometimes implicit, of physical force
against the person of another. Actions which would cause a reasonable victim to be
intimidated during the course of a bank robbery necessarily implicate the threatened
use of physical force. As such, the Court declines to adopt the proposition advanced by
Deiter: that federal bank robbery may occur even without the use, attempted use, or
threatened use of physical force of the type contemplated in Johnson I.
Following Johnson II, both the Sixth and the Eleventh Circuit held that federal
bank robbery is a crime of violence under the career offender sentencing guideline’s
identical force clause. See United States v. McBride, 826 F.3d 293, 295-96 (6th Cir.
2016); United States v. Jenkins, 651 F. App’x 920 (11th Cir. 2016) (unpublished).
Further, the Fourth Circuit in United States v. McNeal, 818 F.3d 141, 153 (4th Cir. 2016)
held that federal bank robbery, even by intimidation, is a crime of violence within the
meaning of the force clause of § 924(c)(3), reasoning as follows:
[T]o secure a conviction of bank robbery “by intimidation,” the government
must prove not only that the accused knowingly took property, but also
that he knew that his actions were objectively intimidating. Bank robbery
under § 2113(a) therefore satisfies the criterion . . . that, to qualify as a
crime of violence, an offense must require either specific intent or
knowledge with respect to the use, threatened use, or attempted use of
818 F.3d at 155.
There is only one federal district court of which this Court is aware that has
reached a contrary conclusion. Courts in the Western District of Washington, in both
Doriety v. United States, 16cv0924, Doc. 12 (W.D. Wash. Nov. 10, 2016) (unpublished)
and Knox v. United States, No. C16-5502BHS, 2017 WL 347469, at *2 (W.D. Wash.
Jan. 24, 2017) (unpublished), have held that federal bank robbery is not a crime of
violence under the career offender sentencing guideline. In the first case, Doriety, upon
which Deiter relies, the court concluded that the statute does not explicitly require that a
defendant intentionally use force, violence, or fear of injury. Doriety, 16cv0924, Doc. 12
at 9. Noting that federal bank robbery may be committed through “intimidation,” which
the Ninth Circuit previously determined did not require a threat of violent physical force,
the court found that § 2113(a) did not satisfy the force clause. Id. (citing United States v.
Hopkins, 703 F.2d 1102, 1103 (9th Cir. 1983) for the proposition that intimidation does
not require a threat of violent physical force). The court explained that the “minimum
culpable conduct” of § 2113(a) “does not even require the presence of another person,
let alone the threat of “violent force” against that person. Id. at 9 (referencing the
portion of § 2113(a), which provides that a defendant may be convicted of federal bank
robbery for “entering ‘any bank . . . with intent to commit in such bank . . . any felony
affecting such bank . . . or any larceny.’”). In Knox, another judge within the same
district simply adopted the rationale set forth in Doriety. See Knox, 2017 WL 347469, at
But this Court is not bound by Ninth Circuit law; nor does it agree with the
premise that bank robbery by intimidation does not necessarily involve a threat of
violent physical force. Further, given that § 2113(a) is a divisible statute and the
modified categorical approach is implicated, it is of no consequence to the present
analysis, as Deiter suggests, that a defendant may also be convicted under § 2113(a)
by entering a bank with the intent to commit a felony without threatening violence. Here,
Deiter was, without question, convicted of federal bank robbery “by force, violence, and
intimidation.” Doc. 15, Ex. A, at 3 and Ex. B.
More importantly, a recently-issued opinion by the Tenth Circuit seems to compel
the result the Court reaches here. In United States v. McGuire, No. 16-3282, 2017 WL
429251 (10th Cir. Feb. 1, 2017) (unpublished), on consideration of a request for a
certificate of appealability, the court concluded that “[e]ven construing the movant’s
application liberally, no reasonable jurist would debate the district court’s denial of
habeas relief.” Id. at *2. District Judge Martin of the District of Kansas premised his
denial of § 2255 relief upon the rationale that, even following Johnson II, the federal
bank robbery satisfies the force clause of the career offender guideline.4 McGuire, 2016
WL 4479129, at *2-3. Later, in determining whether to issue a certificate of appealability
as to Judge Marten’s decision, the Tenth Circuit concluded that “[a]lthough § 2113(a)
includes a taking ‘by intimidation,’ courts have stated that ‘intimidation’ involves the
threat of physical force.” McGuire, 2017 WL 429251, at *2 (citing McBride, 826 F.3d at
295-96 and Lloyd v. United States, 16cv0513, 2016 WL 5387665, at *5 (D.N.M. Aug.
31, 2016)). Moreover, it explained that “courts have consistently held that federal bank
robbery qualifies as a predicate offense under the Guidelines’ [force] clause.” Id. (citing
McBride, 826 F.3d at 295-96, United States v. Jenkins, 651 F. App’x 920, 925 (11th Cir.
2016), and United States v. Selfa, 918 F.2d 749, 751 (9th Cir. 1990)). Thus, it appears
that the Tenth Circuit has adopted the majority view on this issue and would find that
Significantly, the language of force clause in the career offender guideline is identical to the
language of force clause in the ACCA. Compare U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(1) with 18 U.S.C.
federal bank robbery constitutes a “violent felony” under the ACCA’s identical force
clause. As such, the Court recommends that the presiding judge so find here.
II. Whether Aiding and Abetting a Federal Bank Robbery Satisfies the
ACCA’s Force Clause
Deiter also contends that aiding and abetting an unarmed bank robbery is not a
violent felony under the force clause of the ACCA. He asserts that the Tenth Circuit
case in United States v. Fell, 511 F.3d 1035 (10th Cir. 2007) is controlling in this regard.
Doc. 20 at 4.
In Fell, the court determined that Colorado’s conspiracy to commit seconddegree burglary did not have as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use
of physical force, and did not qualify as one of the enumerated crimes under the ACCA.
Fell, 511 F.3d at 1037. The Fell court emphasized that conspiracy to commit seconddegree burglary did not require a person to perform an overt act directed toward the
entry of the building, and reasoned that it, therefore, did not qualify as a violent felony
under the ACCA. Id. at 1038-44.
Deiter notes that the Tenth Circuit then extended Fell’s holding to attempt crimes
in United States v. Martinez, 602 F.3d 1166 (10th Cir. 2010). According to Deiter, the
Fell analysis now applies equally to other inchoate crimes, beyond conspiracy, if the
respective statute permits criminal convictions based upon preparatory conduct.
Doc. 20 at 4 (citing Martinez, 602 F.3d at 1171-74).
The issue before the Tenth Circuit in Martinez was whether second-degree
attempted burglary constituted a violent felony under the ACCA’s residual clause.
Relying upon its rationale in Fell, the court reasoned that because “one can commit the
offense . . . in many ways without an act directed toward entry of the building, the risk of
physical injury to another is too speculative to satisfy the residual provision of [the
ACCA].” Id. at 1170. In other words, the court determined that second-degree
attempted burglary failed to satisfy the ACCA’s now-unconstitutional residual clause.
Contrary to Deiter’s position, neither Fell nor Martinez resolve the issue now
before the Court – whether aiding and abetting a bank robbery is a violent felony under
the ACCA’s force clause? Indeed, at least one circuit court has distinguished aiding
and abetting crimes from attempt and conspiracy crimes in an analogous context, and it
appears that the Tenth Circuit may follow suit.
In United States v. Colon, 826 F.3d 1301, 1305 (11th Cir. 2016), the Eleventh
Circuit considered whether aiding and abetting a Hobbs Act robbery was a crime of
violence under the force clause of § 924(c). There, the defendant sought permission to
file a second or successive § 2255 motion following Johnson II, arguing that his aiding
and abetting conviction no longer qualified as a crime of violence, and that his § 924(c)
sentence, therefore, could not stand. Id. at 1303. The court considered whether a
defendant who had been convicted of aiding and abetting a Hobbs Act robbery was
responsible for all the elements of the Hobbs Act robbery. Id. It explained that aiding
and abetting under 18 U.S.C. § 2 is “not a separate federal crime, but rather an
alternative charge that permits one to be found guilty as a principal for aiding or
procuring someone else to commit the offense.” Id. at 1305. It emphasized that “[a]
person who ‘aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures’ the commission of
an offense ‘is punishable as a principal.’ . . . Indeed, ‘[u]nder § 2, the acts of the
principal become those of the aider and abettor as a matter of law.’” Id. at 1305 (internal
citations omitted). Ultimately, the Eleventh Circuit determined that because the
substantive offense, Hobbs Act robbery, had as an element the use, attempted use, or
threatened use of physical force, the defendant’s aiding and abetting conviction likewise
had such an element. Id.
The Eleventh Circuit’s approach finds some support in the United States
Supreme Court’s analysis in Gonzales v. Duenas-Alvarez, 549 U.S. 183 (2007), a case
arising in the immigration context. There, the Court took up the issue of whether a prior
conviction qualified as a deportable “theft offense” under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(G) and,
in doing so, applied the analytical framework that it had previously developed in Taylor
v. United States, 495 U.S. 575 (1990) when determining whether a crime qualified as a
“violent felony” under the ACCA. See Gonzales, 549 U.S. at 183. The so-called
categorical approach articulated in Taylor, which has since been modified by Descamps
v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 2276 (2013) and Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243
(2016), required courts to consider whether the elements of a prior offense matched the
elements of the generic version of a crime by looking to the state statute that defined
the crime of conviction. See Taylor, 495 U.S. 575. Applying this framework to the
immigration context, the Supreme Court determined that a California conviction for
aiding and abetting a theft fell within the scope of the generic definition of theft.
Gonzales, 549 U.S. at 189. In other words, the Court treated the aiding and abetting
conviction the same as ordinary theft for purposes of applying § 1101, explaining that
the “law treats aiders and abettors during and before the crime the same way it treats
principles; and . . . the immigration statute must then treat them similarly as well.” Id. at
190. Thus, because “state and federal criminal law now uniformly treats principals and
aiders and abettors alike,” aider and abettor liability falls within the scope of a generic
crime, at least for purposes of defining a generic offense in federal immigration statutes.
The Tenth Circuit appears to follow an approach similar to the one adopted by
the Eleventh Circuit in Colon. Before denying a certificate of appealability in McGuire,
the court noted that the defendant there had been convicted of “aiding and abetting in
the taking, by force and violence and by intimidation, [of a federal bank robbery].”
McGuire, 2017 WL 429251, at *2. But the fact that the defendant was convicted as an
aider and abettor was inconsequential to the Court’s analysis. It explained in a footnote:
“That McGuire was convicted as an aider and abettor and not as a principal is irrelevant
to our analysis. Under 18 U.S.C. § 2, ‘[w]hoever commits an offense against the United
States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is
punishable as a principal.’” Id. at *2, n.3.
The court’s reliance upon this rationale in McGuire, together with the Eleventh
Circuit’s persuasive approach in Colon and the Supreme Court’s helpful aider-andabettor analysis in Gonzales, leads this Court to recommend the rejection of Deiter’s
argument that aiding and abetting a bank robbery is not a violent felony.
IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that Deiter’s Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or
Correct Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2225 (Doc. 3) be denied and that his claims
be dismissed with prejudice.
UNITED STATES CHIEF MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE PARTIES ARE FURTHER NOTIFIED THAT WITHIN 14 DAYS OF SERVICE of a
copy of these Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition they may file written
objections with the Clerk of the District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). A
party must file any objections with the Clerk of the District Court within the
fourteen-day period if that party wants to have appellate review of the proposed
findings and recommended disposition. If no objections are filed, no appellate
review will be allowed.
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