United States v. Justin Brown

PRECEDENTIAL UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT ___________ No. 21-1510 ____________ UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. JUSTIN RASHAAD BROWN, Appellant ____________ On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 1-18-cr-00108-001) District Judge: Honorable Sylvia H. Rambo ____________ Submitted Pursuant to Third Circuit L.A.R. 34.1(a) June 17, 2022 Before: HARDIMAN, SMITH and FISHER, Circuit Judges. (Filed: August 29, 2022) Ronald A. Krauss Quin M. Sorenson Office of Federal Public Defender 100 Chestnut Street, Suite 306 Harrisburg, PA 17101 Counsel for Appellant John C. Gurganus, United States Attorney Carlo D. Marchioli, Assistant United States Attorney Office of United States Attorney Middle District of Pennsylvania 228 Walnut Street, P.O. Box 11754 220 Federal Building and Courthouse Harrisburg, PA 17108 Counsel for Appellee ______ OPINION OF THE COURT ______ FISHER, Circuit Judge. Justin Rashaad Brown appeals his fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) on the theory that his Pennsylvania marijuana convictions may no longer serve as ACCA predicate offenses following the federal decriminalization of hemp. We hold that, absent contrary statutory language, we look to federal law in effect at the time of commission of the federal offense when employing the categorical approach in the ACCA context. Because the state schedule matched the federal schedule in effect when Brown committed the federal offense triggering the ACCA enhancement, we will affirm his sentence. 2 In 2016, police officers in York County, Pennsylvania, conducted a series of controlled cocaine buys from Brown. Based on these purchases, the officers obtained a search warrant for Brown’s apartment, which they executed on November 16, 2016. Inside the apartment, they discovered cocaine, scales, money, and Brown himself. The officers also found a loaded .38 caliber Ruger LCR revolver tucked under the couch cushion where Brown had been sitting. Brown was indicted on multiple counts, including being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) on or about the date of the search. Per his agreement with the Government, Brown pleaded guilty to one charge of cocaine possession and distribution as well as the § 922(g) offense in July 2019 before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The Court sentenced him in 2021. At the time of sentencing, Brown had five prior Pennsylvania convictions for the distribution, or possession with intent to distribute, of controlled substances. One, from 2008, involved cocaine, and the remaining four, spanning from 2009 to 2014, involved marijuana. Based on these prior convictions, the District Court held the ACCA applicable to Brown, triggering its fifteen-year mandatory minimum. The Court declined to decide whether he was a “career offender” under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1, because it had already made the ACCA determination. It sentenced Brown to concurrent terms of 180 months’ imprisonment on both counts. Pursuant to a reservation in his plea agreement, Brown now timely appeals his designation under the ACCA. The District Court had jurisdiction under 18 …

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