US v. Blain Salmons

Blain Salmons Jr. pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm under 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). This crime carries a base offense level of 14, see U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1(a)(6)(A), unless the defendant has a prior conviction for a crime of violence, in which case the base offense level rises to 20. The term “crime of violence” is defined with reference to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a).

Salmons had previously been convicted of West Virginia aggravated robbery. At sentencing, the district court found that this constituted a crime of violence for the purposes of calculating the applicable guideline range. With this prior conviction, the district court determined that Salmons’ advisory guideline range was 30-37 months. Had the district court found that Salmons’ prior conviction did not qualify as a crime of violence, his advisory range would have been 15-21 months. The district court ultimately imposed a sentence of 12 years and 1 day. On appeal, Salmons argues that the district court erred by concluding that his prior conviction for aggravated robbery subjected him to an increased guideline range under U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1(a)(4)(A).

The Fourth Circuit holds that it is “clear that West Virginia aggravated robbery qualifies as a crime of violence under the aforementioned 4B1.2(a)(1) definition.” The Court notes that at the time of Salmons’ conviction, aggravated robbery was defined as “the successful or attempted commission of a robbery by partial strangulation or suffocation, or by striking or beating, or by other violence to the person, or by the threat or presenting of firearms, or other deadly weapon or instrumentality whatsoever.” W. Va. Code § 61-2- 12 (1961). On these grounds, the Fourth Circuit affirms the lower court’s judgment, finding “no need to belabor discussion of a district court decision so soundly anchored in both law and common sense.”

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