7th Circuit affirms conviction, 15-year sentence for unlawful firearm possession

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a man’s unlawful possession of a firearm conviction and sentence after a gun was found in his vehicle during a traffic stop.

Indianapolis police stopped Daquwon Richardson for a traffic violation and, while searching his vehicle, found a gun. Richardson has three felony convictions, meaning he couldn’t lawfully possess the gun.

The 15-year sentence Richardson received for unlawful possession of a firearm is the mandatory minimum under the Armed Career Criminal Act.

Richardson asked the 7th Circuit to overturn the jury’s verdict or vacate his sentence, but the court affirmed the decision. However, the court did modify the judgment to reflect that Richardson’s conviction was by a jury — the district court’s judgment incorrectly states that he pleaded guilty.

On appeal, Richardson argued the government’s evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for firearm possession.

Without DNA, eyewitnesses or other evidence of actual possession, the government proceeded on a constructive possession theory, focusing on whether Richardson “had both the power and intention to exercise dominion and control over the firearm.”

The government’s evidence included that Richardson was the driver and only person in the car. Police searched the car after Richardson initially gave false names, which is when officers found a gun beneath the passenger seat. He also said, “That gun’s not mine,” when police asked if he had a firearms license before telling him they had found the gun.

Also, on jail calls with his girlfriend, who owned the gun, Richardson said the gun was “in the same place that it’s always in.”

Judge Thomas Kirsch wrote in the 7th Circuit opinion that it was “entirely reasonable” for the jury to conclude Richardson constructively possessed the gun.

Richardson also argued the district court shouldn’t have considered his three prior convictions as being separate from one another. The Armed Career Criminal Act applies if a person has three or more prior convictions for violent felonies “committed on occasions different from one another.”

When he was 16, Richardson and an accomplice committed a series of armed robberies in Indianapolis at two CVS locations and at a Dollar General. The first robbery occurred at 4:48 a.m. on Dec. 31, 2011, the second robbery was at 6:03 a.m. the same day and the third robbery was at 7:26 p.m. the next day.

Kirsch wrote there is no “colorable argument” that the second and third robberies occurred on the same occasion, given the 36-hour gap between them. And even though the first two robberies were closer in time, there was still more than an hour between them, and they occurred 12 miles apart.

“With a meaningful gap in time and space between them and notwithstanding the similarities in victim, perpetrators, and methodology, all three robberies were ‘committed on occasions different from one another,’” Kirsch wrote in affirming the district court’s application of the Armed Career Criminal Act.

Richardson also argued that his age at the time of the robberies should affect the act’s applicability to his case, but Kirsch called that “meritless.”

Finally, Richardson argued the district court erred in applying a two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice when determining his guidelines range. The 7th Circuit noted he received the mandatory minimum, so any guidelines error was “harmless.”

The case is United States of America v. Daquwon Richardson, 22-1690.

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