Bridges v. United States, No. 20-1623 (7th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Now in his sixties, Bridges has been in and out of prison since he was a teenager. After staying out of trouble for eight years, Bridges got involved in drugs again and committed four robberies in two days in 2017. He netted scarcely $700. Charged with four counts of Hobbs Act robbery, 18 U.S.C. 1951, Bridges agreed to plead guilty, stipulating that he was subject to the career offender enhancement, U.S.S.G. 4B1.1, which could apply only if his crimes of conviction were “crimes of violence” under the Guidelines. The enhancement more than doubled his sentencing range. The court imposed a below-guideline sentence of 140 months.
Bridges sought postconviction relief, alleging he was denied effective assistance of counsel because his lawyer failed to argue that Hobbs Act robbery did not qualify as a “crime of violence.” At the time, there was no Seventh Circuit precedent on that issue. The district court denied relief. The Seventh Circuit reversed for an evidentiary hearing on defense counsel’s performance, joining other circuits that have concluded that Hobbs Act robbery is not a Guidelines “crime of violence.” When Bridges pleaded guilty, the building blocks for a successful legal argument were in place. Effective counsel would have considered this important question; minimal research would have uncovered a Tenth Circuit decision holding that Hobbs Act robbery was no longer a crime of violence under a 2016 amendment to the Guideline definition of a crime of violence.