United States District Court, D. Maryland
IZIAH E. ENNIS, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.
W. TITUS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Iziah E. Ennis (“Ennis”) was indicted for one
count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess a controlled
substance. ECF No. 1. Ennis pled guilty to the charge as part
of a plea agreement with the Government. ECF No. 67. Now
pending before the Court is Ennis's petition under 28
U.S.C. § 2255 (“§ 2255 Motion”) to set
aside the judgment and correct his sentence without a career
offender classification under United States Sentencing
Guidelines § 4B1.1 (“U.S.S.G.”) primarily
based on the decision in Johnson v. United States,
135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). ECF No. 101.
to a Rule 11(c)(1)(c) plea agreement, Ennis pled guilty on
April 23, 2014 to one count of conspiracy to distribute and
possess with intent to distribute controlled substances in
violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. See ECF Nos.
66-1, 67. Ennis waived appellate review and agreed to a
sentence between 96 to 144 months. See ECF No. 67 at
4-7 (agreeing that the final offense level was either 25 or
31 depending on Ennis's status as a career offender under
the U.S.S.G.). The Presentence Investigation Report
(“PSR”) identified a lengthy criminal history,
including: a 1997 felony robbery conviction in Maryland and a
2004 assault on a police officer while armed with a dangerous
weapon (“APODW”) conviction in Washington, DC.
See ECF No. 83 at 6-7, 17 (describing Ennis's
APODW conviction for striking an officer with his automobile
and pulling out a semi-automatic handgun during an attempted
traffic stop). The PSR recommended a sentence of 188 months,
based on a criminal history category of VI and a final
offense level of 31, which equates to a guideline range of
188 to 235 months. See Id. at 11, 17. On August 5,
2014, this Court sentenced Ennis to a variant, below
guidelines term of imprisonment of 144 months, followed by
four years of supervised release. See ECF No. 94 at
1, 2016, Ennis filed the instant § 2255 Motion.
See ECF No. 101. On August 11, 2017, Ennis submitted
a Supplement in support of his original Motion. See
ECF No. 104. The Government responded in opposition on
September 29, 2017, see ECF No. 107, and Ennis
replied in support of his Motion on October 27, 2017,
November21, 2017, and January 22, 2018, see ECF Nos.
28 U.S.C. § 2255, a petitioner must prove by a
preponderance of the evidence 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.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255
(2012); see also Miller v. United States, 261 F.2d
546, 547 (4th Cir. 1958). If the § 2255 motion, along
with the files and records of the case, “conclusively
show that [he] is entitled to no relief, ” a hearing on
the motion is unnecessary and the claims raised in the motion
may be dismissed summarily. 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (2012).
Ennis makes two primary arguments challenging his career
offender status:  to the extent that his prior convictions
were crimes of violence under § 4B1.2(a)(2)'s
residual clause, that clause is void for vagueness pursuant
to Johnson, and  his prior convictions do not
qualify as crimes of violence under the §
4B1.2(a)(1)'s force clause. See ECF Nos. 101,
104, 108-110. The Court finds that these arguments do not
have any legal basis.
begin, Ennis's Motion is likely time-barred as it was
filed more than one year after his sentence became final and
does not present any new rule of constitutional
See, e.g., United States v. Brown, 868 F.3d
297, 303-04 (4th Cir. 2017) (affirming that a
petitioner's motion was untimely because neither
Johnson nor Beckles recognized a new
constitutional right regarding § 4B1.2(a)(2)'s
residual clause); United States v. Sanders, 247 F.3d
139, 142 (4th Cir. 2001); accord 28 U.S.C. §
2255(f). Additionally, because Ennis did not appeal, and thus
failed to raise any challenge to his career offender status
on appeal, these claims are procedurally defaulted.
Accord United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 164-65
assuming arguendo that Johnson provides
Ennis with an avenue for overcoming the untimeliness and
procedural default of his Motion, it would still fail because
his claims are facially meritless. See United States v.
Foote, 784 F.3d 931, 940-44 (4th Cir. 2015) (finding
that lawful sentences based on errors in the application of
the U.S.S.G., including erroneous designations as a career
offender, do not constitute cognizable claims under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255); United States v. Mikalajunas, 186 F.3d
490, 495 (4th Cir. 1999) (“[M]isapplication of the
sentencing guidelines does not amount to a miscarriage of
Beckles forecloses Ennis's Johnson
argues that his career offender status was improper on the
basis that his prior robbery and APODW convictions were not
crimes of violence because § 4B1.2(a)(2)'s residual
clause is unconstitutionally vague. See Johnson, 135
S.Ct. at 2557 (finding the residual clause in the Armed
Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. §
924(e)(2)(B)(ii), to be unconstitutionally vague); ECF No.
101 at 2. However, in Beckles v. United States, the
Supreme Court foreclosed the application of Johnson
to the U.S.S.G. 137 S.Ct. 886, 895 (2018). In
Beckles, the Supreme Court distinguished the
residual clause in the career offender status of the U.S.S.G.
because the guidelines are advisory and thus “not
subject to vagueness challenges under the Due Process
Clause.” See Id. at 890-891; e.g.,
United States v. Riley, 856 F.3d 326, 328 (4th Cir.
2017). Accordingly, Ennis's vagueness challenge lacks
Ennis's prior convictions are crimes of violence under
§ 4B1.2(a)(1)'s force clause.
two prior convictions qualify as crimes of violence under the
§ 4B1.2(a)(1)'s force clause as well. Under the
categorical approach, courts examine a prior conviction based
on the way the law defines the offense rather than the facts
of that particular offense. See Descamps v. United
States, 570 U.S. 254, 261 (2013). The conviction
qualifies as a predicate offense if the least culpable act
under the relevant statute “matches or is narrower than
the [g]uidelines' definition for [a] ‘crime of
violence.'” See United States v. Salmons,
873 F.3d 446, 448 (4th Cir. 2017) (internal citations
omitted). This Court has cautioned against analysis that
“strains common sense.” See United States v.
Moreno-Aguilar, 198 F.Supp.3d 548, 554 (D. Md. 2016)
(finding murder to be a crime of violence); see also
Gonzales v. Duenas-Alvarez, 549 U.S. 183, 193 (2007)
(“[T]o find that a state statute creates a crime
outside the generic definition of a listed crime in a federal
statute requires more than the application of legal
imagination to a state statute's language.”).
Relying on inapposite case law regarding the ACCA and robbery
statutes from North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, and Iowa,
Ennis argues that his convictions lack the necessary force
required to be predicate offenses under §
4B1.2(a)(1)'s force clause. However, these arguments miss the
Maryland robbery conviction is a crime of violence under the
force clause. Robbery in Maryland retains its common law
definition as “the felonious taking and carrying away
of the personal property of another, from his person or in
his presence, by violence, or by putting him in fear . . .
.” Coles v. State, 821 A.2d 389, 394 (Md.
2003) (quoting Darby v. State, 239 A.2d 584, 588
(Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1968)). Maryland has historically
included the presence of force or threat of force within the
analysis of robbery.See id. at 385. Indeed, the
editorial notes to the U.S.S.G. explicitly list robbery as a
crime of violence. See U.S. Sentencing Guidelines
Manual § 4B1.2, cmt. n.1; United States v.
Mobley, 687 F.3d 625, 629 (4th Cir. 2012); see also
Riley, 856 F.3d at 329. Additionally, the Fourth Circuit
determined that Maryland robbery's common law definition
is a crime of violence under the force clause because
“[it] requires a finding of the use of force (a taking
‘by the use of violence') or threatened use ...