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United States v. Wilson

February 2, 2006

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
LEE A. WILSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. No. 04 CR 88-Barbara B. Crabb, Chief Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sykes, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED APRIL 13, 2005

Before EASTERBROOK, KANNE, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

Defendant Lee Wilson was convicted by a jury of being a felon in possession of ammunition, contrary to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The predicate felony is a Wisconsin sexual assault conviction for which Wilson served four years in prison and was discharged with a partial restoration of civil rights. His discharge certificate advised him that certain of his civil rights were restored but he was prohibited from possessing firearms unless he received a pardon from the governor lifting the prohibition.

In unsuccessful motions to dismiss both before and after trial, Wilson argued that his prior conviction is not a qualifying felony within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20), which excludes from the scope of § 922(g)(1) any convictions for which civil rights have been restored unless the restoration of civil rights "expressly provides that the person may not . . . possess . . . firearms." Wilson argued that his prior conviction disabled him from possessing firearms only-not ammunition-because neither Wisconsin law nor the terms of his discharge certificate prohibited him from possessing ammunition. The district court rejected this argument and he renews it on appeal. He also raises evidentiary and sentencing issues. We affirm.

I. Background

In 1999 Wilson was convicted in Wisconsin circuit court of Second Degree Sexual Assault of a Child and sentenced to four years' imprisonment. Upon his release from state prison in June 2003, Wilson received a discharge certificate from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections advising him that some of his civil rights were restored.*fn1 Specifically, the certificate advised him that his right to vote and eligibility for jury duty were restored. Importantly, however, the certificate also stated as follows: "Civil rights that are not restored to felon: 1. Firearms may not be used or possessed unless a pardon is received from the governor which does not restrict possession of firearms. 2. Public office can not be held unless a pardon is obtained from the governor."

In July 2004 Wilson was indicted on a charge of being a felon in possession of ammunition, contrary to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Prior to trial Wilson moved to dismiss, arguing that he was not a convicted felon for purposes of § 922(g)(1) because of the partial restoration of his civil rights and the terms of his discharge certificate. The district court found no merit to this contention, denied Wilson's motion to dismiss, and barred him from introducing evidence of his discharge certificate at trial.

Wilson's arguments on appeal do not directly implicate the facts adduced at trial, so we state them only briefly. On May 25, 2004, approximately one year after Wilson was released from state prison, a man was shot to death in Janesville, Wisconsin. Officers responding to 911 calls of "shots fired" were told to be on the lookout for a blue vehicle with a white top and shiny rims. A witness had observed a vehicle of this description leaving the area of the shooting at a high rate of speed. Officers located the car within minutes of the shooting, parked on a residential street. The car belonged to Wilson and contained numerous boxes of ammunition, loaded and unloaded handgun magazines, pistol grips, and holsters.

Wilson was found inside the home where the vehicle was parked. Witnesses inside the home testified that when Wilson arrived there, he seemed scared and informed them that he had "something he needed to hide." Wilson also instructed the occupants of the home to lie to police about the ownership of the vehicle and who had been driving it. The ammunition found in Wilson's car was the same make and caliber as shell casings found at the murder scene. Urundi Allen, a friend of Wilson's, was eventually charged with the murder; Wilson was charged with the crime of Harboring or Aiding a Felon. The record on appeal does not disclose the final disposition of this state charge.

The jury convicted Wilson of the § 922(g)(1) charge, and he renewed his motion to dismiss posttrial. The district court again denied it. Wilson was sentenced on November 17, 2004, during the six-month interval between this court's decision in United States v. Booker, 375 F.3d 508 (7th Cir. 2004), and the Supreme Court's decision in the same case. United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005). The district court fashioned a discretionary sentence, treating the sentencing guidelines as advisory. The judge also specifically stated that she was taking into consideration the purposes of sentencing as set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).

The judge noted that the applicable guidelines range was 130 to 162 months, but the statute under which Wilson was convicted carried a maximum term of 120 months' imprisonment. See 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2). The judge imposed the statutory maximum sentence, concluding that Wilson posed a "real danger" to the community based upon his extensive criminal history that included "a history of attacking women" and two prior felony convictions for crimes of violence. The judge also expressed concern that Wilson's recent lengthy period of incarceration had not deterred him from resuming his criminal activity upon his release.

II. Discussion

A. Restoration of ...


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