Harrington v. U.S.
First-degree unlawful restraint qualifies as a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act. In 2004, the plaintiff, Stephen Harrington, was arrested in a taxi, en route to meet an individual who allegedly had proposed that they rob a drug dealer. Police discovered that Harrington had possession of .38-caliber revolvers. In 2005, Harrington pled guilty to one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. At sentencing, the District Court found that Harrington's prior convictions qualified as violent felony predicates and sentenced Harrington to 15 years in prison, the minimum under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 United States Code §924(e). Harrington filed a federal habeas petition, arguing that counsel was ineffective, and moved to vacate his sentence. The District Court, Underhill, J., concluded that counsel was not ineffective, because first-degree armed robbery and first-degree unlawful restraint are violent felonies. Harrington filed an appeal to the 2nd Circuit and argued that counsel's failure to challenge the application of the Armed Career Criminal Act to Harrington's conviction on unlawful restraint constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. The 2nd Circuit reviewed de novo. An individual is guilty of first-degree unlawful restraint "when he restrains another person under circumstances which expose such other person to a substantial risk of physical injury," pursuant to C.G.S. §53a-95(a). The 2nd Circuit found that because first-degree unlawful restraint in Connecticut requires intentional restraint and exposure to a substantial risk of physical injury, it qualifies as a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act. Harrington was unable to establish prejudice, because counsel failed to argue otherwise. Because Harrington previously had been convicted twice, in 1987 and 1999, on charges of first-degree robbery, and also had a conviction on a charge of first-degree unlawful restraint, the District Court was entitled to sentence Harrington to 15 years, pursuant to the Armed Career Criminal Act. The 2nd Circuit affirmed the judgment of the District Court, Underhill, J.