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7th Circuit upholds firearm conviction

February 3, 2012

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a man’s conviction of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, finding there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction.

In United States of America v. Gregory G. Eller, No. 10-2465, police found marijuana plants and other items behind a steel door in Gregory Eller’s basement and a loaded gun under the couch in his living room. Eller challenged the charge, arguing he used the gun for protection because the neighborhood was not safe.

On appeal, the judges rejected his claim that the conviction should be reversed because 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c) is unconstitutionally vague as applied. Eller contended that the “in furtherance of” nexus between the drugs and the firearm requires a greater level of participation than proving the “during and in relation to” prong. Eller claimed that in order to prove the former, the government must show the gun was more than merely available, that it actually advanced the drug-trafficking operation. Other jurisdictions have rejected Section 924(c) void-for-vagueness challenges, as did the 7th Circuit.

The government provided sufficient evidence to satisfy the “in furtherance of” nexus required to convict Eller, and the District Court did not commit plain error when it allowed the government to present the testimony of a special agent with extensive experience working in drug-related cases.

 

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