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United States v. Martin

United States District Court, D. Nevada

December 11, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiffs,
v.
JAMES FRANK MARTIN, Defendants.

          ORDER

          MIRANDA M. DU, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. SUMMARY

         Defendant James Frank Martin pled guilty to count one of the indictment charging him with Felon in Possession of a Firearm. (ECF No. 24.) Defendant reserved the right to argue that his prior conviction under Nevada law-extortionate collection of a debt under NRS § 205.322 (“Nevada Extortion”)-is not a crime of violence within the meaning of the United States Sentencing Guidelines § 4B1.2(a). Defendant asserts this argument in his Sentencing Memorandum. (ECF No. 31.) The Court has reviewed the government's response (ECF No. 32) and Defendant's reply (ECF No. 34). For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that Defendant was convicted of a crime of violence within the meaning of § 4B1.2(a).

         II. BACKGROUND

         Defendant was arrested during a traffic stop on September 29, 2016, when detectives discovered two handguns in his car as well as methamphetamine and a large quantity of cash in his pocket. (ECF No. 24 at 4-5.) Defendant was then indicted on three counts on October 19, 2016: two counts of Felon in Possession of a Firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2) and one count of Possession with the Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance - Methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C). (ECF No. 1 at 1-2.)

         Defendant pled guilty to the first count (Felon in Possession of a Firearm) on August 15, 2017. (ECF No. 23.) Pursuant to a written plea agreement and Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(A), the government agreed to dismiss the remaining counts after sentencing. (ECF No. 24 at 3.)

         USSG § 2K2.1 governs the base offense level for a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The guideline states that the base offense level is 20 if “the defendant committed any part of the instant offense subsequent to sustaining one felony conviction of . . . a crime of violence.” USSG § 2K2.1(a)(4)(A).

         Defendant was previously convicted of Nevada Extortion (a felony), on or about December 20, 2010, in the Second Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada. (ECF No. 32-1 at 19.) The parties dispute whether Nevada Extortion is a crime of violence.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Framework

         To determine whether Nevada Extortion is a crime of violence, this Court must apply the three-step process set forth in Descamps v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013), and further explained in Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016). First, under the categorical approach, this Court compares the elements of the statute of conviction (here, Nevada Extortion) with the generic federal definition. United States v. Sahagun-Gallegos, 782 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 2015). If the elements of the statute of conviction are the same or narrower than the elements of the generic federal offense, then the state offense is “a categorical match” and deemed a crime of violence. See Lopez-Valencia v. Lynch, 798 F.3d 863, 867 (9th Cir. 2015). “When a statute . . . criminalizes conduct that goes beyond the elements of the federal offense, [courts] turn to step two: determining whether the statute is ‘divisible' or ‘indivisible.'” Id. at 867-68 (citing Medina-Lara v. Holder, 771 F.3d 1106, 1112 (9th Cir. 2014)). As the court explained in Mathis, a statute is indivisible when it “sets out a single (or ‘indivisible') set of elements to define a single crime.” Mathis, 136 S.Ct. at 2248. When a single statute lists “elements in the alternative, and thereby define[s] multiple crimes, ” the statute is divisible. Id. at 2249. If it is divisible, then the court turns to step three - the modified categorical approach-where the sentencing court determines which of the alternative elements listed under the statute was integral to defendant's conviction. Id.

         B. Analysis

         1. Categorical Approach

         “The term ‘crime of violence' means any [felony], that (1) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another, or (2) is . . . extortion . . . .” USSG § 4B1.2; see also USSG § 2K2.1(a)(4)(A) (incorporating by reference this definition). Extortion under the Sentencing Guidelines (“Guidelines Extortion”) means “obtaining something of value from another by the wrongful use of (A) force, (B) fear of physical injury, or (C) threat of physical injury.” USSG § 4B1.2, Application Note 1. The government ...


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