One cold November morning in 2014, a plainclothes police officer knocked on the door of William Wooden’s home in Tennessee and asked to speak with his wife. Once inside, the officer saw that Wooden had a rifle and a revolver, which — in light of Wooden’s felony record — amounted to a federal crime.
Under the Armed Career Criminal Act, a felon in possession of a firearm faces a 15-year minimum sentence if he has three prior convictions for violent felonies “committed on occasions different from one another.” Wooden was convicted in 1997 of burglarizing 10 units in a ministorage facility. The Justice Department argued that those 10 burglaries should count as 10 different “occasions,” even though they all occurred on the same night in the same building. A federal court agreed and sentenced Wooden to a decade and a half behind bars.
For a brief moment earlier this year, it appeared as though Wooden’s ordeal might come to an end. Although the Trump administration had defended Wooden’s sentence, President Biden seemed like a natural ally. As a senator, Biden introduced the 1988 amendment adding the “different occasions” language to the Armed Career Criminal Act, emphasizing that “career criminal” status should not apply to someone who commits a one-time crime with multiple victims. During the presidential campaign, Biden went a step further and called for an end to all mandatory minimums.
Read more at The Washington Post