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United States v. Knapp

United States District Court, D. Montana, Helena Division

December 3, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFREY KENNETH KNAPP, Defendant.

          ORDER

          CHARLES C. LOVELL SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant's "Post-Trial Motion for Judgment of Acquittal Under Rule 29(c) Fed. R. Crim. P." (Doc. 84). The United States opposes the motion. The Court has reviewed the record in its entirety and is prepared to rule.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On April 4, 2019, the United States filed a criminal complaint charging Mr. Knapp with being a "Prohibited Person in Possession of a Firearm" in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Magistrate Judge Lynch issued an arrest warrant and Mr. Knapp appeared before Magistrate Judge Lynch that day. Mr. Knapp was represented at his initial appearance by Andy Nelson of the Federal Defender's Office and Ms. Hunt was appointed to represent him for future proceedings. Magistrate Judge Lynch released Mr. Knapp, subject to certain conditions.

         On May 1, 2019, a grand jury indictment was filed, charging Mr. Knapp with one count of "Prohibited Person in Possession of a Firearm" in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The Court set trial for June 17, 2019.

         On May 28, Defendant filed a motion to continue all pretrial deadlines on behalf of her client. Her motion was based on her need to obtain information from the State of Colorado regarding the felony convictions that served as the basis for the charge against her client. The Court convened a telephone conference with counsel for both parties to discuss the need to set a new trial date and the parties agreed that they could be prepared for trial on September 3, 2019. The Court issued an order the same day setting trial for September 3, 2019, and extending other pretrial deadlines.

         On June 21, 2019, the Court granted Ms. Hunt's second motion to continue the pretrial deadlines, extending the motions deadline until June 27, 2019. The Court did not continue the trial or change the August 16, 2019, plea agreement deadline.

         On June 21, 2019, the United States Supreme Court held that to convict a defendant of being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm, the United States "must show that the defendant knew he possessed a firearm and also that he knew he had the relevant status when he possessed it." Rehaifv. United States, 139 S.Ct. 2191, 2194(2019).

         On June 27, 2019, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the indictment against him. The government opposed the motion, and the Court entered its order denying the motion to dismiss on July 25, 2019. Recognizing the potential impact of the Rehaif decision as to the essential elements of the charged crime, the Court asked the parties to submit briefs and proposed jury instructions as to the "knowing" element on or before August 16, 2019.

         On August 13, 2019, the parties filed a joint motion to waive the grand jury indictment and allow the government to proceed by superseding information. The Court heard and granted the motion on August 21, 2019. On August 22, 2019, the Court entered an order resetting trial for October 22, 2019, the date agreed upon during the August 21, 2019, hearing.

         On October 22, 2019, at the close of the government's evidence, Defendant made a Rule 29 Motion for Judgment of Acquittal as to the superseding information, which was denied. Defendant renewed his motion after both parties had rested, later that day, and the Court denied the renewed motion. On October 23, 2018, a unanimous jury found Defendant guilty of being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm as charged in the superseding information. Now before the Court is Defendant's timely-filed renewed motion for judgment of acquittal as to the single count of the superseding information, which motion is again opposed by the government.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The familiar standard for deciding a motion for acquittal, as articulated in Jackson v. Virginia, requires this Court to determine whether, "after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the ...


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