Thomas and Alito Release Their Dissent on the Hobbs Act

Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito released their dissents to a ruling that would lower the federal government’s sentencing for charges under the Hobbs Act.

The SCOTUS limited the federal statutes ability to sentence violators to longer prison terms when a firearm is involved. The Hobbs Act “makes it a federal crime to commit, attempt to commit, or conspire to commit a robbery with an interstate component.” That means that even if someone scopes out or contributes to a robbery, even if they weren’t present at the time the robbery took place, they can be sentenced to long term sentences in connection with criminal activity.

The case in question focused on Justin Taylor, who was an alleged marijuana dealer who planned to rob a buyer with an accomplice. The accomplice shot and killed the buyer during the robbery.

Taylor was charged with attempted Hobbs Act robbery and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The federal crime has a maximum of 20 years, but because there was a firearm involved in the violent crime, the federal statute requires a mandatory minimum.

The court ruled that a Hobbs Act offense isn’t technically a “crime of violence” and shouldn’t have had to serve the additional 10 years of his sentence.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote, “Simply put, no element of attempted Hobbs Act required proof that the defendant used, attempted to use, or threatened to use force.”

Thomas disagreed. He wrote, “This holding exemplifies just how this court’s ‘categorical approach’ has led the Federal Judiciary on a ‘journey Through the Looking Glass,’ during which we have found many ‘strange things.’ Rather than continue this 30-year excursion into the absurd, I would hold Taylor accountable for what he actually did and uphold his conviction.”

Alito wrote, “I agree with Justice Thomas that our cases involving 924(c)(3)(A) have veered off into fantasy land. But if the Court is going to disregard the real world and base its decisions in this area on a strict reading of the tet, the ‘offense’ for which Taylor was convicted — attempted Hobbs Act robbery — meets the definition in 924(c)(3)(A).”

Federal statute 924(c)(3)(A) says, “(3) For purposes of this subsection the term ‘crime of violence’ means an offense that is a felony and — (A) has an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another.”

The lack of accountability is going to encourage people to set up violent criminal activity with the reward that they won’t be sentenced to long term prison time if they’re caught in connection with the crime.