Supreme Court limits reach of federal gun crime law
The US Supreme Court on Tuesday limited the reach of a federal statute that requires stiff penalties for crimes involving a gun.
The 7-2 decision united both conservative and liberal justices, though one dissenting justice compared the result to "Alice in Wonderland."
The justices said the law can’t be used to lengthen the sentences of criminals convicted of a specific attempted robbery offense.
The case before the justices involved Justin Taylor, who in the early 2000s was a marijuana dealer in the area of Richmond, Virginia. The government has said he sold large quantities of marijuana to other dealers who distributed it. In 2003 he and another man planned to steal money from a buyer, and during the robbery the accomplice fatally shot the man.
Taylor was charged with “attempted Hobbs Act robbery,” a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
He was also charged under a federal statute that outlines mandatory minimum sentences for using a firearm in connection with a “crime of violence.”
Taylor pleaded guilty to both and was given a 30-year sentence, 10 years longer than he could have received for just the robbery charge.
A majority of the court, however, ruled that attempted Hobbs Act robbery does not qualify as a crime of violence and therefore that Taylor was not eligible for the longer sentence.