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United States v. Cameron

decided: March 10, 1987.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
LARRY D. CAMERON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Peoria Division. No. 85 CR 10013--Michael M. Mihm, Judge.

Posner and Flaum, Circuit Judges, and Grant, Senior District Judge.*fn*

Author: Flaum

FLAUM, Circuit Judge.

Larry Cameron appeals his conviction for conspiring to import, manufacture, and sell firearms with a license. At trial, Cameron sought to impeach a key government witness by introducing evidence that the witness had a history of drug use and had been convicted on a misdemeanor charge of possessing a switchblade. Cameron also sought to introduce evidence that his alleged co-conspirator had fled the country while he had remained. Cameron asserts that the district court erred by refusing to admit any of this evidence. Cameron also claims that the government did not introduce sufficient evidence to allow the jury to find him guilty, and that the district court relied on improper evidence in imposing a $5,000 fine. We reject each of these claims and affirm the judgment of the district court.

I.

The appellant is a gunsmith. In June, 1983, the appellant and John Parsons, an Australian national, entered into an agreement to purchase 2,500 disassembled M-1 rifles from Odin International, a weapons importer located in Virginia which had acquired the rifles from the government of Peru. The appellant and Parsons arranged to have the rifle frames sent from Virginia to Windsor, Ontario, where the appellant operated a gun shop. The appellant later transported the remaining M-1 parts (the barrels and stocks) from Virginia to Romulus, Michigan, a town located near Windsor, where he had rented a workshop.

The appellant claims that he originally intended to import the rifle parts into Canada so that he could reassemble the rifles and sell them in time for the "Christmas trade." However, the appellant did not follow through on this plan. Instead, he sold the M-1 receivers, stored at his Windsor, Ontario shop, to Parsons.

During the fall of 1983 and the winter of 1984, the appellant worked at the shop that he had rented in Romulus. Although the M-1 rifles were reassembled in the workshop during this period, the appellant claims that he was merely an employee of Parsons and was unaware of what was occurring.

On several occasions during the period in which the appellant was working in Romulus, he brought gun barrels to Chris Yeatts, the foreman of a metal cleaning company in Warren, Michigan, to have them stripped. On one occasion, in September, 1983, Yeatts and the appellant discussed the possibility of the appellant selling Yeatts an assembled M-1. Appellant claims that Yeatts raised the possibility; Yeatts testified that it was the appellant's idea. However, there is no evidence that the appellant ever personally sold an assembled M-1 in the United States.

Between December, 1983, and May, 1984, Parsons and Peter Bailey, another Australian, sold a number of assembled M-1's in the United States. On May 13, 1984, Parsons and Bailey were arrested by local police while selling M-1's from the back of a station wagon in a parking lot outside a gun show in Peoria, Illinois. The police later conducted a search of the Romulus workshop, where they found rifle frames and other rifle parts. Parsons was subsequently released on bail. While free, he fled to his native Australia.

The appellant and Parsons were subsequently charged with conspiring to import, manufacture, and deal in firearms without a license, see 18 U.S.C. ยงยง 371, 922 (1982). Appellant was tried and convicted. The court sentenced him to five years probation and a $5,000 fine. Appellant appeals both the conviction and the fine.

II.

A.

At the appellant's trial, Chris Yeatts, the foreman of the gun stripping shop, testified that the appellant had offered to sell him an assembled M-1 rifle. On cross-examination, the defense sought to impeach Yeatts' credibility by introducing evidence that Yeatts had used the hallucinogenic drug LSD. The defense's theory was that evidence of drug use is probative of credibility because individuals who use illegal drugs are engaged in "a lifestyle of crime and disrespect for law" and, therefore, are likely to have no compunction about lying under oath. The district court refused to admit evidence of Yeatts' prior drug use for this purpose. The court did, however, offer to allow the defense ...


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