United States v. Block, No. 18-2470 (8th Cir. 2019)

Annotate this Case
Justia Opinion Summary

The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon. The court held that defendant's prior Arkansas conviction for second degree battery was a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act. The court also held that defendant's two prior Texas convictions for delivering a controlled substance were serious drug offenses under the Act. Accordingly, the district court correctly sentenced defendant as an armed career criminal.

Court Description: Per Curiam - Before Gruender, Stras and Kobes, Circuit Judges] Criminal case - Sentencing. The district court correctly determined that for ACCA sentencing purposes defendant's Arkansas second-degree battery conviction was a violent felony and his two Texas convictions for delivering a controlled substance were serious drug offenses, and the court did not err in sentencing him as an armed career criminal
Download PDF
United States Court of Appeals For the Eighth Circuit ___________________________ No. 18-2470 ___________________________ United States of America Plaintiff - Appellee v. Keith Morgan Block Defendant - Appellant ____________ Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas - Texarkana ____________ Submitted: June 14, 2019 Filed: September 9, 2019 [Published] ____________ Before GRUENDER, STRAS, and KOBES, Circuit Judges. ____________ PER CURIAM. When Keith Block pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), he became eligible for a fifteen-year mandatory-minimum sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”). ACCA requires three prior qualifying crimes, and “we focus on the elements of th[os]e crime[s]—as opposed to the actual facts of what he did.” Brown v. United States, 929 F.3d 554, 556 (8th Cir. 2019) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). If the elements are “the same as, or narrower than,” ACCA’s categories of qualifying offenses, then the convictions count. Id. (citation omitted). In this case, the district court counted three of Block’s convictions: one for second-degree battery under Arkansas law and two for delivery of a controlled substance under Texas law. According to the court,1 the Arkansas conviction was a “violent felony” and the Texas convictions were “serious drug offense[s].” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1) (applying to felons-in-possession with “three previous convictions . . . for a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both”). The district court classified them correctly. See United States v. Darden, 915 F.3d 579, 584 (8th Cir. 2019) (stating that we review de novo whether prior convictions count under ACCA). For Block’s second-degree-battery conviction, we have already held that the specific subsection that Block violated, Ark. Code Ann. § 5-13-202(a)(4), qualifies as a “crime of violence,” U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(1), which has a definition that is “nearly identical” to “violent felony,” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(i). United States v. Williams, 690 F.3d 1056, 1067 (8th Cir. 2012); see also United States v. Rice, 813 F.3d 704, 706 (8th Cir. 2016) (applying the definition of “crime of violence” in U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(1)). Block has given us no reason to treat the definitions as anything other than “interchangeable” here. Williams, 690 F.3d at 1067. His Texas drug convictions also qualify as “serious drug offenses.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(A)(ii). Block argues that the Texas statute that he twice violated cannot be a “serious drug offense” because it criminalizes a mere offer to sell drugs. Texas Health & Safety Code §§ 481.112(a), .002(8). But we have considered and rejected this argument before in analyzing a similar Minnesota statute. United States v. Bynum, 669 F.3d 880, 887 (8th Cir. 2012) (discussing Minn. Stat. § 152.01, subd. 1 The Honorable Susan O. Hickey, Chief Judge, United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas. -2- 15a). We held there that an offer to sell drugs qualifies as a “serious drug offense” under ACCA’s “expansive” definition because it is “related to or connected with drug manufacture, distribution, or possession.” Id. at 886 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(A)(ii) (defining “serious drug offenses” as “offense[s] . . . involving manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to manufacture or distribute, a controlled substance” (emphasis added)). We are bound by these decisions, notwithstanding Block’s insistence that they are wrong. See Mader v. United States, 654 F.3d 794, 800 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). We accordingly affirm the judgment of the district court. ______________________________ -3-
Primary Holding
Defendant's prior Arkansas conviction for second degree battery was a violent felony, and his two prior Texas convictions for delivering a controlled substance were serious drug offenses, under the Armed Career Criminal Act.

Disclaimer: Justia Annotations is a forum for attorneys to summarize, comment on, and analyze case law published on our site. Justia makes no guarantees or warranties that the annotations are accurate or reflect the current state of law, and no annotation is intended to be, nor should it be construed as, legal advice. Contacting Justia or any attorney through this site, via web form, email, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship.