2nd Cir.: Substantive Hobbs Act Robbery Not Crime of Violence for Career Offender: Chappelle
In United States vs. Chappelle, the Second Circuit held that Substantive Hobbs Act Robbery was not a crime of violence for the career offender enhancement.
Chappelle's Crime and Sentencing
Chappelle was charged in a three-count indictment with conspiracy to distribute narcotics, in violation of 21 U.S.C. 846 and 841, conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1951, and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking offense, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(c). Chappelle pled guilty to the Hobbs Act conspiracy and 924(c) charge. Pursuant to his plea agreement, Chappelle stipulated that he was a career offender under U.S.S.G. 4B1.1 and waived his right to appeal or collaterally attack any sentence of 327 months or less.
At sentencing, the district court determined that Chappelle’s conviction for Hobbs Act conspiracy qualified as a crime of violence under U.S.S.G. 4B1.2 which triggered the career offender enhancement. Chappelle faced a guidelines range of 262 to 327 months with the career offender enhancement. Without it, Chappelle’s guidelines range would have been 151 to 188 months.
Chappelle's Sentence Overturned
On direct appeal, the Second Circuit vacated Chappelle’s 924(c) conviction because it had previously held that Hobbs Act conspiracy is not a valid predicate crime of violence for 924(c) purposes. Chappelle was subsequently re-sentenced. This time, the district court concluded that Chappelle was not a career offender and sentenced him accordingly. The government appealed the district court’s determination that Hobbs Act conspiracy was not a crime of violence for career offender purposes.
Chappelle argued that his conviction for Hobbs Act robbery is not a crime of violence under the Guidelines’ definition found at U.S.S.G. 4B1.2. Notably, at Chappelle’s original sentencing, an earlier version of the Guidelines had been used that contained a “catch-all” residual clause. However, when Chappelle was re-sentenced the district court used the 2018 Guidelines Manual which had narrowed the definition of a crime of violence.
Holding: Hobbs Act Robbery not a Crime of Violence for Career Offender Purposes
In deciding Chappelle’s appeal, the Second Circuit joined seven of its sister circuits in holding that substantive Hobbs Act robbery is not a crime of violence for career offender purposes. The court reasoned that Hobbs Act robbery can be committed based solely on violence against property, whereas a crime of violence for career offender purposes must be based on violence against another person. Because substantive Hobbs Act incorporates conduct that is broader than the Guidelines definition, it cannot qualify as a crime of violence under 4B1.2.
Because substantive Hobbs Act robbery does not qualify as a predicate offense for career offender purposes, the Seventh Circuit held that Chappelle’s Hobbs Act conspiracy conviction could also not qualify.
The Second Circuit has now joined the Third, Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Circuits in holding that substantive Hobbs Act robbery does not qualify as a crime of violence for career offender purposes. IMPORTANTLY, this does not mean that substantive Hobbs Act robbery is not a crime of violence under the ACCA or 18 U.S.C. 924(c). The critical distinction is that the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines do not allow for crimes of violence against property of another, whereas the other definitions of a crime of violence do. The definitions of a crime of violence under each are similar, but the Guidelines omission of property crimes is the key factor in holding Hobbs Act robbery cannot be used to enhance a sentence under the career offender Guidelines.