In Alvarado-Linares v. United States, No. 19-14994 (Aug. 16, 2022) (Newsom, Branch, Brasher), the Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Mr. Alvarado-Linares’s Davis-based § 2255 motion.

Mr. Alvarado-Linares was convicted of one count of conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); four counts under the Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering Act (“VICAR”), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)–two for murder and two for attempted murder, in violation of Official Code of Georgia §§ 16-5-1(a) and 16-4-1; and four counts of using a firearm in committing those offenses, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).  He was sentenced to three concurrent life sentences plus eighty-five years.  Mr. Alvarado-Linares filed a motion to vacate his four firearms convictions–which resulted in 85-years of consecutive imprisonment–as unconstitutional in light of Davis.

The Court granted a certificate of appealability on one issue: whether Mr. Alvarado-Linares’s four firearms convictions are unconstitutional in light of Davis.  To resolve the issue, the Court noted that Mr. Alvarado-Linares must “bear the burden of showing that he is actually entitled to relief on his Davis claim, meaning he will have to show that his § 924(c) convictions[s] resulted from application of solely the [now-unconstitutional] residual clause,” citing to In re Hammoud and Beeman.

The Court, applying the modified categorical approach, and looking through the VICAR statute to the elements of the underlying state predicate–Georgia malice murder–held that Georgia malice murder is a crime of violence under § 924(c)(3)’s elements clause.  The Court also noted that a VICAR murder conviction predicated on federal murder would also meet the definition of crime of violence.  The Court then held that VICAR attempted murder–both under Georgia and federal law–is also a crime of violence under the elements clause because a conviction for attempted murder requires the government to prove–as an element of the offense–the use or attempted use of physical force.  Finally, the Court reasserted that aiding and abetting offenses can qualify as crimes of violence under § 924(c).  So, even though Mr. Alvarado-Linares’s VICAR murder and attempted murder convictions were premised on an aiding and abetting theory, they nevertheless count as crimes of violence under § 924(c).

Therefore, because Mr. Alvarado-Linares’s VICAR convictions predicated on murder and attempted murder qualify as crimes of violence under § 924(c)’s elements clause, his four § 924(c) convictions remain valid after Davis.  

Judge Newsom filed a concurring opinion, writing separately “to ask whether the ‘categorical approach’ to identifying ‘crime[s] of violence’ has, to use a technical term of art, jumped the shark.”  In Judge Newsom’s view, the VICAR statute itself–where VICAR stands for Violent Crime in Aid of Racketeering–indicates that VICAR offenses are crimes of violence.