Submitted: June 16, 2016
from United States District Court for the District of
Minnesota - St. Paul
MURPHY, BRIGHT, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
BRIGHT, Circuit Judge
convicted appellant-defendant Leonard Hill of being a felon
in possession of ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§§ 922(g) and 924(e). On appeal, Hill challenges
his conviction and the district court's denial of his
renewed motion for acquittal. Hill argues: (1) the government
constructively amended the indictment; (2) the government
failed to establish the ammunition was in or affecting
interstate commerce; and (3) the de minimis connection to
interstate commerce is insufficient to satisfy the Commerce
Clause. We affirm the district court.
early morning hours of July 10, 2014, St. Paul police
responded to reports of gunfire outside of Willard's Bar
in St. Paul, Minnesota. While police investigated the area,
they arrested and frisked Hill. As a result of the frisk,
police seized twenty-three rounds of Federal brand
9-millimeter Luger ammunition from Hill.
jury indicted Hill on August 18, 2014, charging him with one
count of being a felon in possession of ammunition in
violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g) and 924(e).
Specifically the indictment stated that Hill "did
knowingly possess, in and affecting interstate and foreign
commerce, ammunition, as defined by Title 18, United States
Code, Section 921(17)(A), that is, 23 live rounds of Federal
brand 9-millimeter Luger ammunition, in violation of Title
18, United States Code, Sections 922(g)(1) and
pled guilty on September 26, 2014. Two months later, however,
he moved to withdraw his plea. The district court granted
Hill's motion and he proceeded to trial. Before trial,
Hill stipulated that he knowingly possessed ammunition and
was a convicted felon. Therefore, the only remaining issue at
trial was whether Hill's possession of the ammunition was
in or affecting interstate commerce.
trial, the government presented expert testimony from Steve
Rodgers, the product safety manager and fifteen-year employee
for Vista Outdoor, the parent company of Federal Cartridge
Ammunition. In his examination of the ammunition, Rodgers
randomly disassembled two of the twenty-three rounds seized
from Hill and separated them into the four major components
that form a round of ammunition: (1) the primer, (2) the
case, (3) the propellent powder, and (4) the bullet. Rodgers
dated the ammunition as being no older than 2011 and after
discussing the manufacturing origin of each component,
Rodgers determined that three out of the four components-
including the primer, case, and bullet-were all manufactured
by Federal Cartridge in Minnesota.
concluded that the propellent powder was manufactured outside
of Minnesota. To justify his conclusion, Rodgers testified
that Federal Cartridge does not manufacture its own
propellent powder but instead purchases 95% of it from two
domestic sources-located in St. Marks, Florida, or Radford,
Virginia-and the remaining 5% from international sources.
Further, Rodgers opined that the propellent powder from the
two rounds of ammunition he disassembled derived from St.
Marks, Florida, specifically because he recognized the
propellent powder was "ball powder, " which is a
unique manufacturing process specific to Federal
Cartridge's supplier in St. Marks. Finally Rodgers
testified that the remaining twenty-one rounds were identical
to the two rounds he had randomly disassembled and therefore
his testimony applied to those rounds as well.
close of the government's case, Hill moved for a judgment
of acquittal which the district judge denied. The jury
returned a guilty verdict. On August 13, 2015, Hill filed a
renewed motion for judgment of acquittal, which the district
court again denied. On October 15, 2015, the district court
sentenced Hill to 192-months' imprisonment. Hill timely
filed this appeal.
makes three arguments on appeal. He first argues the
government constructively amended the indictment by
presenting evidence at trial of how the individual components
of ammunition were in or affecting interstate commerce rather
than the ammunition as a whole. Second, the district court
should have granted Hill's motion for acquittal because
the government failed to establish the propellent powder
component was manufactured outside of Minnesota at the time
Federal Cartridge manufactured the ammunition seized from
Hill-which is anywhere between 2011 and the date law
enforcement seized the ammunition from Hill. Lastly, ...