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United States v. Hill

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

October 20, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Leonard Dwayne Hill, Defendant.

          Benjamin Bejar, Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney's Office, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Plaintiff.

          Leonard Dwayne Hill, pro se.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ANN D. MONTGOMERY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the undersigned United States District Judge for a ruling on Defendant Leonard Dwayne Hill's (“Hill”) 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Motion [Criminal Docket No. 131] (“§ 2255 Motion”), and Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis [Docket No. 132] (“IFP Application”).[1] For the reasons set forth below, Hill's § 2255 Motion is granted in part and denied in part, and his IFP Application is denied as moot.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On August 6, 2015, a jury returned a verdict finding Hill guilty of being a felon in possession of ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 921(17)(A), 922(g)(1) and 924(e)(1). Jury Verdict [Docket No. 88]. The Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) determined that Hill's conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) qualified him as an armed career criminal under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2), and he was therefore subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 months imprisonment. PSR ¶¶ 22, 87. The ACCA designation was premised upon three prior convictions for Second Degree Burglary, two prior convictions for Domestic Assault, and one prior conviction for Theft from Person. PSR ¶ 22.[2]The PSR concluded that Hill's sentencing guideline range was 262 months to 327 months imprisonment. Id. ¶ 88.

         On September 10, 2015, the Court held a sentencing hearing and adopted the PSR sentencing determinations without change. Min. Entry [Docket No. 102]; Statement Reasons [Docket No. 104] at 1. As a result, Hill was adjudicated to be an armed career criminal under the ACCA. The Court imposed a 192-month sentence, a downward variance from the Guidelines range of 262 months to 327 months imprisonment. Sentencing J. [Docket No. 103] at 2; Statement Reasons at 1, 3.

         Hill appealed his conviction, arguing that 1) the Government constructively amended the Indictment; 2) the Government failed to establish that the ammunition was in or affecting interstate commerce; and 3) the de minimis connection to interstate commerce was insufficient to satisfy the Commerce Clause. United States v. Hill, 835 F.3d 796, 797-98 (8th Cir. 2016). On August 29, 2016, the Eighth Circuit affirmed Hill's conviction. Id. at 800. The Mandate [Docket No. 127] was issued on October 6, 2016, and Hill's writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court was denied on January 17, 2017. See Hill v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 820 (2017).

         On June 26, 2017, Hill filed the § 2255 Motion and the IFP Application. In the § 2255 Motion, Hill argues that 1) the Court lacked territorial jurisdiction over the offense of conviction, and that the ammunition was not manufactured outside of Minnesota; 2) his prior felony convictions no longer qualify as violent felony convictions under the ACCA; 3) he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his attorney failed to file a motion to dismiss the Indictment; and 4) the de minimis nexus of his offense to interstate commerce is unconstitutional.

         On August 18, 2017, the Government filed a Response [Docket No. 137], arguing that Hill's first claim fails because the offense conduct occurred in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the ammunition's propellant powder was manufactured outside of Minnesota. The Government further argues that Hill's ineffective assistance of counsel claim fails because the validity of the Indictment was upheld at trial and on appeal. Therefore, trial counsel's failure to file a motion to dismiss the Indictment was not ineffective because any such motion would have been futile. Finally, the Government argues that Hill's interstate commerce arguments are not cognizable under § 2255 because they were fully litigated at trial and on appeal.

         With regard to Hill's sentencing argument, the Government concedes that Hill must be resentenced. Eighth Circuit decisions subsequent to Hill's sentencing and appeal establish that Hill no longer has three qualifying prior felony convictions that qualify him as an armed career criminal.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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