An Elkhart felon’s defense that he was drunk at the time he told police that guns they confiscated from his girlfriend’s apartment belonged to him failed to sway the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which did find another error and order him to be resentenced.
Elkhart police responded to a report of gunfire at an apartment. They asked an intoxicated John W. Bloch III and his girlfriend to wait outside while they searched to make sure no one was injured. Police found a loaded Glock handgun and an SKS assault rifle in plain view.
“As the officers removed the firearms from the apartment, Bloch protested that the guns were his and demanded their return. This was a bold statement under the circumstances; Bloch is a felon and also has a conviction for a domestic-violence misdemeanor, making
his firearm possession a federal crime,” wrote Circuit Judge Diane Sykes. Bloch also later told an inmate the guns were his and that he should have hidden them better, according to testimony.
“Bloch makes the remarkable claim that his spontaneous demand for return of the guns was categorically unreliable as evidence of possession because he was drunk when he said it,” Sykes wrote. “To the contrary, the jurors were entitled to credit this evidence if they found it persuasive; and they obviously did. Maybe they relied on the common wisdom found in the proverb in vino veritas (‘wine speaks the truth’).”
The court did find error in Bloch’s consecutive sentences of 120 months and 18 months in prison and remanded to the District Court for the Northern District of Indiana for resentencing. The court commended the government for raising the error.
“A single incident of firearm possession can yield only one conviction under § 922(g), no matter how many disqualified classes the defendant belongs to or how many firearms he possessed,” Sykes wrote in United States of America v. John W. Bloch, III, 12-2784.
“The district court shall merge the two ... convictions and resentence Bloch on a single count of conviction.”