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7th Circuit upholds conviction

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a defendant's conviction and sentence for selling a firearm to a felon, ruling the wording of his indictment did not require the government to prove he knew about the gun buyer's past convictions.

In U.S.A. v. Dwayne Haskins, No.06-1438, Haskins was convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. 922(d) after selling a firearm to co-worker Darryl Eller, who was a convicted felon. Eller cooperated with federal agents after police arrested him as a felon in possession and confiscated his gun after an incident at work. Police inadvertently returned the gun to Haskins, who worked as a security guard with Eller at a bar. Haskins then told Eller he would sell the gun back to Eller.

Eller worked with police and was wired during phone calls with Haskins about purchasing the gun. Haskins was arrested and told an ATF agent he knew Eller had been in some trouble but didn't know if he had been in prison. At trial, Eller testified Haskins and other co-workers knew he was a convicted felon.

Haskins appealed his conviction and sentence of 18 months, arguing there was insufficient evidence, his sentence was too harsh, and the government and District Court amended his indictment. Specifically, Haskins argued the government had to prove he knew Eller was a felon and knew of the particular felony referred to in the indictment. Haskins relied on United States v. Willoughby, 27 F.3d 263 (7th Cir. 1994), in which the court reversed a conviction where the defendant's indictment for using a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime specified a particular drug trafficking crime. That indictment stated the crime as distribution of cocaine, but the government only proved at trial a connection between the defendant's use of a firearm and possession of cocaine.

In Haskins' case, the indictment specified Eller's 1993 felony conviction and did not narrow the description of charges against Haskins or his knowledge of Eller being a felon. Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner described Eller's felony conviction information as "superfluous background information" that the government doesn't need to prove.

Haskins also argued his conviction should be reversed because there was insufficient evidence to prove he knew Eller had been convicted of a felony. Judge Rovner wrote Eller's testimony that Haskins knew he was a felon, Haskins' comment to ATF agents that he knew Eller was a felon "the first time I saw him", and his conversation with Eller before and during the sale of the gun all prove he knew Eller was a felon.

Haskins believed his sentence to be unreasonable, arguing a mitigating factor was used against him in sentencing and the judge relied on improper and irrelevant factors when sentencing him. Haskins told the court he had been shot by a felon 14 years ago but was not given the opportunity at trial to explain why his victim status justified a lower sentence. The District Court deemed this incident as irrelevant to his current crime, wrote Judge Rovner. The circuit judges found the District Court gave "meaningful consideration" to sentencing factors found in 18 U.S.C. 3553 and affirmed Haskins' conviction and sentence.

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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