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United States v. Jones

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

July 23, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Donzell A. Jones, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          John T. Maughmer United States Magistrate Judge

         Prior to June 5, 2016, defendant Donzell Jones (“Jones”) had been convicted on several felony offenses under Missouri state criminal law, to wit:

• Possession of Controlled Substance [Mo. Rev. Stat. § 195.202] on January 5, 2001;
• Tampering with a Motor Vehicle [Mo. Rev. Stat. § 569.080.1(2)], Trafficking in Drugs in the Second Degree [Mo. Rev. Stat. § 195.223], and Possession of Controlled Substance [Mo. Rev. Stat. § 195.202] on September 6, 2002; and
• Driving While Revoked [Mo. Rev. Stat. § 302.321] and Possession of Controlled Substance [Mo. Rev. Stat. § 195.202] on May 24, 2011.

         On July 17, 2018, Jones was indicted on two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(e)(1). Specifically, the Indictment alleges that, on June 5, 2016, Jones was found in the possession of a Jimenez Arms 9mm semi-automatic handgun.

         Currently pending before the Court is Jones' motion to dismiss the Indictment (Doc. 51), wherein Jones - acting pro se - contends that the government cannot meet the statutory elements necessary to convict him under Section 922(g)(1). That federal criminal statute provides:

(g) It shall be unlawful for any person-
(1) who has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year . . . .; to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.

18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The government must prove three essential elements for a Section 922(g)(1) conviction: (1) the defendant previously was convicted of a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year; (2) he knowingly possessed a firearm; and (3) the firearm traveled in or affected interstate commerce. United States v. Stanko, 491 F.3d 408, 412 (8th Cir. 2007). Jones' motion focuses on the first element.

         Generally, what constitutes a conviction of a qualifying predicate crime for purposes of Section 922(g)(1) is “determined in accordance with the law of the jurisdiction in which the proceedings were held.” 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20). See also United States v. Thornton, 766 F.3d 875, 877 n.1 (8th Cir. 2014). To that end, federal law also gives due deference to decisions by a state to “restore” its citizens' gun rights:

Any conviction which has been expunged, or set aside or for which a person has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored shall not be considered a conviction for purposes of this chapter, unless such pardon, expungement, or restoration of civil rights expressly provides that the person may not ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms.

18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20). As a result of various state government legislative enactments addressing gun rights, “the question has arisen whether under [Section] 921(a)(20) state restoration of a federal felon's civil rights precludes use of the conviction for which civil rights were restored as a predicate conviction required for the imposition of criminal liability pursuant to [Section] 922(g)(1).” Richard Belfiore, State Restoration of Federal Felon's Civil Rights as Nullification of Conviction Under 18 U.S.C.A. § 921(a)(20) Which Defines Conviction for Purposes of Penalizing Possession of Weapon by Convicted Felon Pursuant to 18 U.S.C.A. § 922(g)(1), 117 A.L.R. Fed. 247, 247 (1994 & Supp. 2019).

         Seizing upon the “restoration” language of Section 921(a)(20), Jones argues that “his right to bear arms” was restored in 2014 by the voters of the State of Missouri when they approved an amendment to the Missouri ...


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