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United States v. Katz

September 22, 2009


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 07-CR-40053-Michael M. Mihm, Judge.

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


Before KANNE, ROVNER, and EVANS, Circuit Judges.

The defendant, Terrance Katz, was indicted on multiple counts, including unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, unlawful possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and unlawful possession of a firearm in pursuance of a drug trafficking crime. A jury convicted him on only one of those counts-unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon-and failed to reach a verdict on the remaining counts. On that felon-in-possession count, the jury convicted only as to Katz's possession of a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, not as to the other firearm in the count which was a Sturm Ruger Super Blackhawk .44-caliber pistol. The district court denied Katz's motions for judgment of acquittal and his motion for a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 and 33 respectively.

Katz argues on appeal that the evidence was insufficient for a jury to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on the felon-in-possession charge under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), and that the district court abused its discretion in failing to grant him a judgment of acquittal. We agree and reverse.

In determining whether the evidence is sufficient to support the verdict, we consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution and determine whether any rational trier of fact could find the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. United States v. McLee, 436 F.3d 751, 757 (7th Cir. 2006). The evidence at trial consisted of testimony from several law enforcement agents, a forensic technician, and tapes of two 911 calls, as well as stipulations by the parties. The sequence of events leading to the arrest of Katz began with two 911 calls made by Dawnya Grice on the morning of February 15, 2007. In the first call, Grice informed the dispatcher that her boyfriend, Katz, was threatening her with bodily harm, that he had previously hit her, that she was in a car outside the house because he had finally allowed her to leave her home, and that she wanted him removed from her home. The dispatcher asked Grice if Katz had any weapons and she stated that he did not. Grice then called 911 again and reported that Katz was now outside her home and that he had a weapon, which she described as a big revolver. She stated that she had initially lied about his possession of a weapon because she assumed he would get rid of it before the police arrived. She then declared that she was unsure whether he currently had it but it appeared that he might be carrying it in his pants. Approximately three minutes into this call, the dispatcher told Grice that the police had stopped Katz as he was walking down the street and that she should return to her home. The police detained Katz a few blocks from Grice's home. A search of Katz revealed no weapons, but the police did find over $1,800 in cash on him. Grice reported to the police that she believed he had also taken her house keys which were on a Nascar keychain, and the police recovered keys matching that description in their search of Katz.

The officers subsequently proceeded to Grice's home and sought her consent to search the home, which she provided. As they were obtaining her consent, one of the detectives saw an unidentified black male descend from the upstairs of the home and quickly exit through the front door. Neither the detective nor any of the officers at the scene were able to detain him, and his identity was never discovered. The subsequent search of the home revealed the following items of interest:

- a box of .44-caliber ammunition, a small mirror with cocaine residue on its surface, and a razor blade above the kitchen cupboard;

- a box containing 75.4 grams of marijuana in 56 individual baggies in the kitchen;

- a Remington 12-gauge shotgun with an attached scope between the mattress and the box springs in an upstairs bedroom;

- a black zippered bag containing 2.2 grams of crack cocaine and "female products" such as makeup and possibly feminine hygiene products in an upstairs bedroom closet;

- a black nylon coat containing .8 grams of crack cocaine in the dining room closet;

- a camouflage backpack containing 4 plastic baggies of marijuana totaling 19.42 grams on a chair in ...

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