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Tennessee felon challenges federal conviction in Supreme Court

In Wooden v. United States, the Armed Career Criminals Act will be at the forefront of the decision.
Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 2:19 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - From his prison typewriter, William Wooden filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to hear his case. On Monday, it will.

Wooden is a convicted felon but he argues he’s facing extra jail time because of an unjust sentence enhancement.

One night in 1997, Wooden broke into a storage facility in Georgia. He entered 10 units during the course of the crime and plead guilty to 10 counts of burglary.

But were those burglaries committed on “separate occasions”? The Department of Justice thinks so, but Wooden’s attorney Allon Kedem disagrees. Now it’s up to the Supreme Court, as more than 15 years of Wooden’s life hangs in the balance.

“It was a single criminal episode taking place over a single evening,” Kedem said.

While out of prison, and living in Tennessee, Wooden was arrested again in 2015 for possession of a firearm. He was then was convicted under the Armed Career Criminals Act, which provides sentence enhancements for felons who commit more than three separate crimes with firearms.

“Without the enhancement, he likely would have faced somewhere between 21-27 months in prison,” Kedem said. “Once the enhancement is applied, there’s a mandatory 15-year minimum and a maximum of life. He ended up getting a sentence of 188 months, more than 15 years.”

In the nation’s high court Monday, Kedem will argue a common sense understanding of the law: that the burglaries should be treated as one occasion and the enhancement should not apply.

The Department of Justice declined our request for an interview but directed Gray Television’s Washington News Bureau to the briefs on this case.

In the briefs, they point to three decades of court precedent that show courts have recognized offenses committed sequentially, but close in time, did occur on different “occasions” for purposes of the ACCA.

Oral arguments will begin at the Supreme Court Monday morning at 11 a.m. If the Supreme Court sides with Wooden, Kedem says Wooden - and other defendants - could be re-sentenced without the enhancement.

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