Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Hires: Denial of SOS because aggravated assault and robbery at gun point are violent felonies, and Descamps does not apply

In In Re: Morris Vernell Hires, No. 16-12744-J (June 15, 2016), the Court denied an application for a second or successive (SOS) § 2255 motion, ruling that a “Florida conviction for aggravated assault under § 784.021 is categorically a violent felony under the ACCA’s elements clause.” The Court stated that it had held in Turner v. Warden Coleman FCI (Medium), that an aggravated assault conviction “will always include as an element the threatened use of physical force against the person of another.” The Court further held that Hires’ 1995 conviction for robbery qualified as a violent felony. The Court noted that the unobjected-to facts in Hires’ PSI state that Hires pointed a gun at a victim and took the victim’s property at gunpoint. In determining the nature of a prior conviction, a sentencing court may rely on undisputed facts in the PSI. A Florida armed robbery qualifies as a violent felony. Turning to Descamps, the Court noted that while Descamps’ 2013 divisibility holding is retroactive for a first § 2255 motion, it is not retroactive for purposes of a second or successive § 2255 motion. The Court stated that “Johnson does not serve as a portal to relitigate whether a prior robbery conviction or another conviction qualifies under the elements clause.” The Court added that having in prior cases denied SOS applications because Descamps was not a new rule of constitutional law, it would now be “arbitrary and inequitable” to permit petitioners who can now cite Johnson to pursue SOS § 2255 motions only because their enhancements are ultimately invalidated by Descamps, not Johnson at all.