JOHNSON v. UNITED STATES
In 2010, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began investigating Samuel Johnson based on his involvement in an organization called the National Social Movement. Later in 2010, Johnson left that group to found the Aryan Liberation Movement. In November of that year, Johnson told an undercover FBI agent that he manufactured napalm, silencers, and other explosives for the Aryan Liberation Movement in addition to possessing an AK-47 rifle, several semi-automatic weapons, and a large cache of ammunition. In April 2012, Johnson was arrested at a meeting with his probation officer and admitted to possessing some of the previously mentioned weapons.
A grand jury charged Johnson with six counts of firearm possession, three of which relied on his classification as an “armed career criminal.” This classification was based on the fact that he had three prior felony convictions that the district court designated as “violent felonies”—attempted simple robbery, simple robbery, and possession of a short-barreled shotgun. Pursuant to the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), Johnson was then subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years. Johnson argued that the convictions in question should not be considered violent felonies and that the ACCA was unconstitutionally vague. The district court held that the felony convictions in question were in fact violent felonies and that Johnson was an armed career criminal for the purposes of the mandatory minimum sentence required by the ACCA. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed.
Should possession of a short-barreled shotgun, which the district court designated as a violent felony, be treated as such under the Armed Career Criminal Act?