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United States v. Walls

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division

December 20, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff
v.
Lawrence Lee Walls, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JEFFREY J. HELMICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Before me is Defendant Lawrence Walls objection in response to my pre-trial classification of Defendant as an armed career criminal under the Armed Career Criminal Act. (Doc. No. 73). The government opposes reconsideration. (Doc. No. 78).

         II. Background

         Prior to the trial in April 2017, Defendant Lawrence Walls moved for a pre-trial determination as to the application of the Armed Career Criminal Act to his case. At issue were the following three incidents and five resulting convictions: (1) 1992 aggravated assault under O.R.C. 2903.12; (2)1997 felonious aggravated assault with a firearm specification under O.R.C. § 2903.12(A)(2); and (3) 2001 aggravated robbery with a firearm specification under O.R.C. §§ 2911.01(A)(1) & 2941.145, aggravated burglary with firearm specification under O.R.C. §§ 2911.11(A)(1) & 2941.145, and robbery under O.R.C. § 2911.02(A)(2). In the previous briefing, Walls conceded the 1997 and 2001 convictions qualified as two violent felonies for purposes of the ACCA. (Doc. No. 22 at 5-6). With respect to the 1992 conviction, Walls argued it should not be considered the third offense for purposes of the ACCA because (1) he was convicted under the 1992 version of the statute, (2) the provocation element of the offense, and (3) the conviction was incurred by Alford plea. Id. at 3-5. Rejecting all three arguments, I found the 1992 conviction was a violent felony and that Walls was an armed career criminal under the ACCA. (Doc. No. 27).

         III. Standard

         The ACCA applies to defendants with three convictions for violent felonies or serious drug offenses, incurred during three separate incidents. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). A violent felony is “any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year… that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another; or is burglary.” Id. at § 924(e)(2)(B). Physical force under the statute means “force capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person.” Johnson v. United States, 559 U.S. 133, 140 (2010). If the defendant has three convictions that qualify as violent felonies or serious drug offenses under the definition of the statute, he must be sentenced to a minimum of fifteen years.

         IV. Discussion

         To determine whether a crime is a violent felony under the ACCA, the court uses the categorical approach. Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551, 2557 (2015). The categorical approach “examines ‘the statutory definition of the offense and not the particular facts underlying the conviction.'” United States v. Anderson, 695 F.3d 390, 399 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting United States v. Gibbs, 626 F.3d 344, 352 (6th Cir. 2010)). Shepard documents will only be considered “[i]f it is possible to violate the statute in a way that would constitute a violent felony and in a way that would not.” Anderson, 695 F.3d. at 399 (citing Gibbs, 626 F.3d at 352 and Shepard v. United States, 544 U.S. 13, 26 (2005)).

         The government agrees that because Walls' 2001 convictions were the result of one criminal episode, only one of the three may count towards his classification as an armed career criminal. (Doc. No. 21 at 9). Therefore, Walls will only be classified as an armed career criminal if both of his aggravated assault convictions, incurred in 1992 and 1997, and at least one of his 2001 convictions are considered violent felonies under the ACCA.

         A. Aggravated Assault

         Walls was convicted of aggravated assault in 1992 and felonious aggravated assault with a firearm specification in 1997. Both convictions were incurred under O.R.C. § 2903.12. In 1992, the statute read as follows:

No person, while under the influence of sudden passion or in a sudden fit of rage, either of which is brought on by serious provocation occasioned by the victim that is reasonably sufficient to incite the person into using deadly force, shall knowingly: (1) Cause serious physical harm to another; (2) Cause or attempt to cause physical harm to another by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance.

O.R.C. § 2903.12(A) (1992). The statute was amended in 1996, before Walls' 1997 conviction, to add the phrase “or to another's unborn” in subparts (1)-(2). The amendment did not alter the underlying elements of the offense. Instead, it criminalized harm to ...


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