USA v. Deondry Chambers, 06-2405. The defendant pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The judge, finding that the defendant had committed three crimes of violence previously, sentenced him to 188 months as an armed career criminal. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). The only question presented by the appeal is whether one of those convictions, a conviction under Illinois law for escape, was indeed a crime of violence. The answer depends on whether escape "involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another." § 924(e)(1).
A jail break does; but Illinois defines felonious escape not only as "intentionally escap[ing] from a penal institution or from the custody of an employee of that institution" but also as "knowingly fail[ing] to report to a penal institution or to report for periodic imprisonment at any time." 720 ILCS 5/31-6(a). The defendant’s escape was in the latter category-failing to report to a penal institution.
The Seventh Circuit holds that the recently decided United States v. Golden, 466 F.3d 612, 616-17 (7th Cir. 2006) refused to carve the Illinois escape statute at the joint, as it were, but held instead that any violation of the statute is a crime of violence for purposes of the Act. The other courts of appeals, except the D.C. and Ninth Circuits, are in accord.
In the end, the Seventh Circuit finds that they shall adhere to the precedents for now. But it is an embarrassment to the law when judges base decisions of consequence on conjectures, in this case a conjecture as to the possible danger of physical injury posed by criminals who fail to show up to begin serving their sentences or fail to return from furloughs or to halfway houses. You could show up an hour late (without an excuse) and be guilty of a felony that could result in your receiving a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act.
The Seventh Circuit concludes that more research will be needed to establish whether failures to report or return have properly been categorized by this and most other courts as crimes of violence.
For the full opinions visit the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Web Site.
For more about attorney Michael J. Petro, visit www.mjpetro.com .