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United States v. Morrison

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

April 8, 2014

United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
James Antonio Morrison, Jr., Defendant - Appellant

Submitted, November 18, 2013

Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Des Moines.

For United States of America Plaintiff - Appellee: James M. McHugh, U.S. Attorney's Office, Des Moines, IA.

For James Antonio Morrison, Jr., Defendant - Appellant: John Leonard Lane, Cedar Rapids, IA.

James Antonio Morrison Jr., Defendant - Appellant, Pro se, Leavenworth, KS.

Before WOLLMAN, COLLOTON, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.

A jury convicted James Morrison, Jr., of unlawful possession of ammunition as a previously convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). Morrison appeals, arguing that the district court[1] abused its discretion bye admitting evidence of purchases, sales, and possession of firearms and ammunition by Morrison and his associates. We affirm.

On April 25, 2011, an agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives received a report that Janessa Hove had purchased multiple firearms

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within a five-day period. Investigation revealed that Hove resided in an apartment in Ames, Iowa; the mailbox at Hove's address displayed the names of both Hove and Morrison. ATF officers contacted Hove and learned that in early March 2011, Hove had obtained a permit to purchase firearms, at Morrison's behest. Morrison, a previously convicted felon, wanted a firearm for himself as well as firearms and ammunition to sell to friends. According to Hove, she purchased ten pistols for Morrison between early March and the middle of April 2011, and she purchased ammunition for Morrison on three occasions during roughly the same period.

On April 28, 2011, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Hove's apartment and found a box of nine-millimeter ammunition on a coffee table. Hove testified that she had purchased the ammunition for Morrison and given it to him in the apartment, after an unsuccessful attempt to return it to the store from which she had purchased it. The officers also seized men's clothing and personal items that belonged to Morrison. On July 27, 2011, a grand jury returned a one-count indictment against Morrison, charging him with unlawful possession of the ammunition as a previously convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2).

Before trial, the government moved in limine for a ruling that evidence of the firearm straw-purchasing scheme was admissible. In particular, the government sought to present testimony from Hove regarding her role in the scheme, statements from Morrison acknowledging some aspects of the scheme, evidence that officers had found a firearm in Hove's car after Morrison consented to a search of it, and testimony from Scott Edwards that he had purchased two firearms from Morrison. The government argued that the evidence was admissible as res gestae evidence of the context of Morrison's unlawful possession of the seized ammunition or, alternatively, as evidence of motive, knowledge, and intent under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b). Over Morrison's opposition, the district court ruled the evidence admissible as res gestae .

At trial, the government offered the challenged testimony. Defense witnesses testified that Morrison had moved out of Hove's apartment by the middle of April. A jury convicted Morrison, and the district court sentenced him to eighty-four months' imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Morrison appeals, challenging the admissibility of the government's evidence of the unlawful purchases, sales, and possession of firearms. We ...


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