On Tuesday, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals released its decision in United States v. Wiley. In that decision, the Court affirmed Wiley’s convictions for conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act Robbery, aiding and abetting Hobbs Act Robbery, and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. Of note is the Court’s rejection of Wiley’s argument that aiding and abetting Hobbs Act Robbery does not qualify as a crime of violence. This is important because naturally “brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence” in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) requires . . . well . . . brandishing a firearm in the act of committing a crime of violence; and if aiding and abetting Hobbs Act Robbery is not a crime of violence, Wiley’s § 924(c) conviction could not stand.
Under § 924(c), “any person who, during, and in relation to any crime of violence . . . uses or carries a firearm, or who, in furtherance of any such crime, possesses a firearm,” commits the crime of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. Section 924(c) also defines a crime of violence as any felony that has “as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened used of physical force against the person or property of another.” What Wiley argued was that aiding and abetting Hobbs Act Robbery did not qualify under this definition.
In making this argument, Wiley faced an uphill battle from the get-go. The Eleventh Circuit has previously rejected this argument in In re Colon, 826 F.3d 1301 (11th Cir. 2016). The Court did so because the elements of Hobbs Act Robbery include “by means of actual or threatened force, or violence, or fear of injury.” Therefore, Hobbs Act Robbery automatically qualifies as a crime of violence. Moreover, aiding and abetting a crime is not a separate crime from crime which is aided and abetted. Instead, it is “an alternative charge that permits one to be guilty as a principal.” In other words, aiding and abetting Hobbs Act Robbery is committing Hobbs Act Robbery.
Wiley acknowledged this problem but argued that the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in United States v. Taylor, 142 S. Ct. 2015 (2022), abrogated the Eleventh Circuit’s previous decisions on this issue. The Eleventh Circuit disagreed because the Taylor decision addressed whether attempted Hobbs Act Robbery constituted a crime of violence for § 924(c) purposes. Unlike aiding and abetting, attempted Hobbs Act Robbery is a separate crime from actually committing Hobbs Act Robbery. This is because with attempted robbery, there has been no actual robbery—merely a intent to commit the robbery and substantial step towards committing the robbery.
Because of the differences between attempted crimes and completed crimes in which a defendant aided and abetted, the Eleventh Circuit rejected Wiley’s arguments about Taylor and applied its previous precedent. Therefore, Wiley’s convictions for aiding and abetting Hobbs Act Robbery qualified as a crime of violence to sustain his conviction under § 924(c).