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United States v. Mata

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 25, 2017

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
Antonio Mata Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: March 6, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - St. Paul

          Before WOLLMAN, MELLOY, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

          SHEPHERD, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Antonio Mata pled guilty to possessing with intent to distribute methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B)(viii), and being an armed career criminal in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(e)(1). In his plea agreement, Mata stipulated to three previous convictions: (1) first-degree possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance in Dallas County, Texas in 2001; (2) first-degree possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance in Dallas County, Texas in 2001; and (3) third-degree criminal sexual conduct with force or coercion in Rice County, Minnesota in 2004. As a result, the district court[1] applied the fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence found in 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). Mata appeals, arguing that his 2004 Minnesota conviction does not qualify as a predicate felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). Exercising de novo review, see United States v. Irons, 849 F.3d 743, 746 (8th Cir. 2017), we affirm.

         I. Discussion

         A. ACCA Framework

         When an individual pleads guilty to, or is convicted of, violating § 922(g), the ACCA imposes a fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence if that individual "has three previous convictions . . . for a violent felony or a serious drug offense." 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). Under the statute, "the term 'violent felony' means any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year . . . that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another." Id. § 924(e)(2)(B)(i). "[T]he phrase 'physical force' means violent force-that is, force capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person." Johnson v. United States, 559 U.S. 133, 140 (2010). Thus, in order for Mata's Minnesota conviction to qualify as a predicate felony, the statute under which he was convicted must have as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of force capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person. See id.

         Our determination of whether Mata's conviction meets the statutory definition begins with the categorical approach, under which we "look only to the fact of conviction and the statutory definition of the prior offense." United States v. Headbird, 832 F.3d 844, 846 (8th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks omitted). But where "the statute criminalizes both conduct that does and does not qualify as a violent felony and the statute is divisible, we apply the modified categorical approach and may review certain judicial records to identify which section of the statute supplied the basis for a defendant's conviction." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         B. Minn. Stat. § 609.344(1)(c) (2004)

         Mata pled guilty to a violation of Minnesota Statute section 609.344(1)(c). This statute states: "A person who engages in sexual penetration with another person is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree if . . . the actor uses force or coercion to accomplish the penetration." Minn. Stat. § 609.344(1)(c) (2004). We conclude the statute is divisible. See Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243, 2249 (2016) (declaring a statute divisible because it "prohibited 'the lawful entry or the unlawful entry' of a premises with intent to steal, so as to create two different offenses, one more serious than the other"); Descamps v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2276, 2281 (2013) (noting that a "divisible . . . statute sets out one or more elements of the offense in the alternative-for example, stating that burglary involves entry into a building or an automobile."). The Minnesota Supreme Court has noted that "[t]he plain language of the elements of the offense indicates that third-degree criminal sexual conduct can be committed by coercion alone, force alone, or both force and coercion." State v. Leake, 699 N.W.2d 312, 323-24 (Minn. 2005); see Mathis, 136 S.Ct. at 2248 ("'Elements' are the 'constituent parts' of a crime's legal definition . . . ."). In a prosecution under section 609.344(1)(c), the factfinder is required to determine which of the three possibilities-force, coercion, or both-was present because, under Minnesota law, the use of force constitutes a more serious offense. See Minn. Stat. § 609.106(1)(a)(3) (stating that a violation of section 609.344 becomes a "heinous crime . . . if the offense was committed with force"); 10 Minn. Practice Jury Instr. Guides-Criminal § 12.21 & cmt. (2015). Accordingly, because Minnesota Statute section 609.344 "list[s] elements in the alternative, and thereby define[s] multiple crimes, " it is a divisible statute. See Mathis, 136 S.Ct. at 2249. Because this offense can be committed by coercion rather than force, we will assume that subsection (1)(c) is also over-inclusive.[2]

         We therefore apply the modified categorical approach to determine whether Mata pled guilty to using force, coercion, or both to accomplish the offense. See Headbird, 832 F.3d at 846. "Under that approach, " we may "look[] to a limited class of documents (for example, the indictment, jury instructions, or plea agreement and colloquy) to determine what crime, with what elements, a defendant was convicted of." Mathis, 136 S.Ct. at 2249. The record evidence in this case includes Mata's 2014 plea agreement and the plea colloquy from the 2004 Minnesota state case. In the transcript of the plea colloquy from the 2004 conviction, the following exchange between Mata and the state court judge is recorded:

The Court: First of all, when you had sex with her, she was ...

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