In United States v. Coats, No. 18-13113 (Aug. 12, 2021) (Martin, Newsom, Julie Carnes), the Court, in a 75-page opinion, affirmed the defendant’s felon in possession conviction and affirmed his ACCA sentence.

As to the conviction, the Court found no plain error under Rehaif.  Although the district court committed error that was plain by accepting his guilty plea without advising him of the mens rea element, he could not establish prejudice, as required by the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Gary, because he made no attempt to show that he would have proceeded to trial but for the Rehaif error, and he had numerous prior felony convictions.

As to the sentence, the Court held that the defendant’s 2003 Georgia burglary conviction qualified under the ACCA’s enumerated clause.  In an extensive discussion, the Court rejected the defendant’s argument that Georgia’s “party to a crime” statute, which included aiding and abetting liability, rendered his offender non-generic.  Georgia law required an accomplice to burglary to take affirmative action and to intend to facilitate the crime, as required by the generic standard for aiding and abetting articulated by the Supreme Court in Rosemond.

Finally, the district court did not err by declining to grant acceptance of responsibility because, despite pleading guilty, the defendant obstructed justice.  The record did not clearly establish that this was an extraordinary case where a reduction was warranted notwithstanding the obstruction, especially given that the obstructive act was a violent assault of a key witness.  It was not enough that the obstruction preceded the indictment.