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Federal judge orders new trial in felony gun possession case

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Finding the interests of justice require a new trial for a man convicted of a federal gun crime in which the government withheld potentially exculpatory evidence, Judge William T. Lawrence granted his request Wednesday in the Southern District of Indiana Terre Haute division.

Donald Bickel of Jasonville was convicted in November after authorities obtained a search warrant for his home but then watched and waited as someone left and drove to the woods in Bickel’s truck. Officers didn’t confirm Bickel’s identity as they watched, though, and waited another 12 hours before executing the warrant.

Lawrence vacated Bickel’s conviction of possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of ammunition by a felon and granted his motion for a new trial. He ruled that the government failed to disclose the period of surveillance and it suppressed Norman Arthur Pilant’s statement that he was the owners of guns and ammunition for which Bickel was charged. Pilant also claimed he was driving Bickel’s truck as police watched.

“The Court now finds that the cumulative effect of the Government’s failure to disclose the period of police surveillance prior to Bickel’s arrest and the recorded statement made by Norman Arthur Pilant at the scene of Bickel’s arrest prior to trial, jeopardized the substantial rights of the Defendant,” Lawrence wrote.

Chief Federal Defender Monica Foster of Indiana Federal Community Defenders Inc. praised federal defender Joseph Cleary for getting the conviction vacated.

“This case sends a clear message that prosecutorial misconduct will not be tolerated by the federal courts,” Foster said in a statement. “We have been concerned about the United States Attorney’s discovery policies in the recent past and this case demonstrates those concerns have merit. Our justice system is built on the premise that the Government plays fair and we continue our commitment to making sure they do.”
 

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  1. He did not have an "unlicensed handgun" in his pocket. Firearms are not licensed in Indiana. He apparently possessed a handgun without a license to carry, but it's not the handgun that is licensed (or registered).

  2. Once again, Indiana's legislature proves how friendly it is to monopolies. This latest bill by Hershman demonstrates the lengths Indiana's representatives are willing to go to put big business's (especially utilities') interests above those of everyday working people. Maassal argues that if the technology (solar) is so good, it will be able to compete on its own. Too bad he doesn't feel the same way about the industries he represents. Instead, he wants to cut the small credit consumers get for using solar in order to "add a 'level of certainty'" to his industry. I haven't heard of or seen such a blatant money-grab by an industry since the days when our federal, state, and local governments were run by the railroad. Senator Hershman's constituents should remember this bill the next time he runs for office, and they should penalize him accordingly.

  3. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  4. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  5. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

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