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SCOTUS Rules Attempted Robbery With Fatal Shooting Doesn’t Qualify As ‘Act Of Violence’

Washington, DC – The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a drug dealer involved in the fatal shooting death of another drug dealer during an attempted robbery in 2003 must be resentenced because offense did not qualify as an “act of violence” under federal law.

The 7-2 decision, which was handed down on Tuesday, stemmed from the federal prosecution of Justin Eugene Taylor, Bloomberg reported.

Taylor cooked up a plan to rob Martin Silvester during a drug deal in 2003, during which Taylor’s accomplice wound up fatally shooting Silvester with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun, according to Courthouse News.

Taylor and his co-defendant ultimately fled the scene without stealing Silvester’s money, Bloomberg reported.

Taylor later took a plea agreement and was convicted of attempted robbery under the federal Hobbs Act – a law that makes it a crime to obstruct or affect interstate commerce “by robbery or extortion” when “induced by the wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence and fear,” according to CNN.

He was sentenced to 20 years for the attempted robbery conspiracy offense, Bloomberg reported.

Taylor was also convicted of a crime of violence under federal law 18 U.S.C. 924(c), which involves “the use attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another,” according to Bloomberg.

He received a consecutive 10-year sentence for that offense.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit later vacated the “crime of violence” conviction, declaring that attempted Hobbs Act robberies don’t always involve the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force, even though Taylor’s case did, Bloomberg reported.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the appeals court’s decision, affirming that an attempted Hobbs Act robbery does not qualify as an “act of violence,” according to Bloomberg.

“Mr. Taylor may be lawfully subject to up to 20 years in federal prison for his Hobbs Act conviction,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority. “But as the Fourth Circuit recognized, Congress has not authorized courts to convict and sentence him to a decade of further imprisonment under § 924(c)(3)(A).”

Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.

Thomas argued that the ruling “exemplifies just how this Court’s ‘categorical approach’ has led the Federal Judiciary on a ‘journey Through the Looking Glass,’ during which we have found many ‘strange things,’” Bloomberg reported.

The decision paved the way for Taylor and other convicted criminals who have had five-to-10 years added to their sentences for attempted Hobbs Act robberies to have their sentences shortened, according to CNN.

Taylor’s case has been remanded for resentencing.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin

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