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United States v. One Assortment of 93 NFA Regulated Weapons

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 27, 2018

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
One Assortment of 93 NFA Regulated Weapons Defendant Trent Pierce Intervenor Sangeeta Mann Claimant - Appellant Randeep Mann; Sandip Mann Claimants United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
One Interord Corporation, Model USAS-12, 12 Gauge Shotgun, Serial Number A0002089SA Defendant Sangeeta Mann Claimant Randeep Mann Claimant - Appellant Trent Pierce; Sandip Mann Claimants United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee Trent Pierce Intervenor
v.
One Assortment of 93 NFA Regulated Weapons Defendant Randeep Mann Claimant - Appellant Sandip Mann Claimant

          Submitted: March 13, 2018

          Appeals from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Little Rock

          Before WOLLMAN, SHEPHERD, and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.

          SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.

         Following Dr. Randeep Mann's federal conviction in the bombing of Dr. Trent Pierce, the United States filed two civil forfeiture actions against weapons seized from Dr. Mann during the criminal investigation. In the first action, the district court[1]ordered forfeiture of an unregistered 12 gauge shotgun ("shotgun") to the United States.[2] In the second, the district court denied forfeiture of 93 National Firearms Act regulated weapons ("93 weapons"), but ordered the 93 weapons to be sold at auction and the proceeds to be paid to Dr. Pierce.[3] Dr. Mann appeals the first order granting forfeiture, and both he and his wife, Sangeeta Mann, appeal the second order disposing of the 93 weapons. We affirm.

         I. Background

         On February 4, 2009, Dr. Pierce, the then-chairman of the Arkansas State Medical Board ("Board"), was severely and permanently injured by a bomb consisting of a grenade concealed in a spare tire which was placed against his vehicle outside his West Memphis, Arkansas home. Law enforcement identified Dr. Mann as a potential suspect, as he was one of five doctors who had been disciplined by the Board within the previous five years. By chance, on March 3, 2009, city workers discovered 98 grenades buried in a wooded area near the Russellville, Arkansas home Dr. Mann shared with his wife.

         Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant on the Mann residence where they discovered numerous weapons, including the shotgun and 93 National Firearms Act regulated weapons, consisting of 76 machine guns, 10 silencers, 5 auto sears, and 2 receivers. After determining several weapons-including the shotgun-were not properly registered as required by law, officers seized the unregistered firearms and arrested Dr. Mann. Following his arrest, the 93 weapons, which were titled and registered in the name of Dr. Mann or his solely owned company, remained at the Mann residence. Because only a Class III federal firearms licensee can lawfully possess these weapons, the United States advised Mrs. Mann she might be in unlawful possession. The United States later obtained a warrant and seized the 93 weapons as evidence in Dr. Mann's criminal case.

         A jury convicted Dr. Mann on seven charges: two involving the bombing, three involving the illegal possession of weapons, and two involving obstruction of justice. The jury did not, however, convict Dr. Mann for illegal possession of the shotgun. The district court sentenced Dr. Mann to life imprisonment. In a separate criminal proceeding, Mrs. Mann was also convicted on charges of obstructing justice in Dr. Mann's criminal case.

         Dr. Mann appealed his conviction and sentence, which this Court mostly affirmed. See United States v. Mann, 701 F.3d 274, 311 (8th Cir. 2012).[4] He then sought post-conviction relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The district court denied his claims, which included arguments that the United States perpetrated fraud on the court by planting evidence and fabricating a story to obtain a search warrant for his residence. Mann v. United States, No. 4:09CR00099 (BSM), 2016 WL 4500779, at *4 (E.D. Ark. Aug. 26, 2016). The district court found these arguments were procedurally defaulted because they were not presented on direct appeal and Dr. Mann could not show prejudice or actual innocence. Id. Dr. Mann appealed, but this Court declined to issue a certificate of appealability.

         In a separate Arkansas civil action, Dr. Pierce obtained a judgment of $122, 500, 000 against Dr. Mann for the injuries he sustained in the bombing. The judgment was registered in Pulaski County, Arkansas, and a writ of execution was issued directing the Pulaski County Sheriff to seize the 93 weapons. The writ was served on the United States, but was returned non est.

         Following Dr. Mann's criminal convictions, the government filed two civil forfeiture actions: one against the shotgun and one against the 93 weapons. During discovery in both, Dr. Mann attempted to prove the United States perpetrated fraud on the court in his underlying criminal case. In response, the United States obtained a protective order in each forfeiture action, which quashed all discovery targeted at developing Dr. Mann's fraud on the court argument rather than exploring the facts of possession for purposes of forfeiture.

         In a bench trial based on stipulated facts, the district court ordered forfeiture of the shotgun to the United States. The court found there was no proof of Dr. Mann's claim that a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives ("ATF") officer told him he could possess the shotgun without registering it. Dr. Mann appeals the forfeiture order.

         In a separate bench trial, the district court denied forfeiture of the 93 weapons. However, because Dr. Mann could not lawfully possess the weapons as a convicted felon, the court ordered the weapons sold at auction. The court found Dr. Mann was not entitled to the proceeds of the sale due to Dr. Pierce's Arkansas civil judgment against him. The court found Mrs. Mann lacked the requisite ownership interest to establish standing to claim 50 percent of the proceeds of the sale. Thus, the district court ordered 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the weapons to be paid to Dr. Pierce in partial satisfaction of his civil judgment against Dr. Mann. Dr. and Mrs. Mann both appeal.

         II. Discussion

         Dr. Mann first alleges the United States perpetrated fraud on the court in his underlying criminal case. Had this fraud not occurred, he insists, the shotgun and 93 weapons would not have been seized and would therefore not be subject to forfeiture. Dr. Mann also alleges the district court erred in both forfeiture actions by limiting the discovery necessary to prove this fraud. Dr. Mann next challenges the district court's order granting forfeiture of the shotgun, claiming civil forfeiture is barred by his acquittal on the charge of illegally possessing the shotgun. Finally, Dr. and Mrs. ...


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