Gun Owners Foundation Amicus Brief in United States v. Stanko

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

Mr. Rudolph Stanko was convicted of possession of a firearm and ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 922(g)(1), which prohibits any person from possessing a firearm or ammunition if that person has been convicted of certain types of crimes punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.  According to the statutory definition, the predicate crime cannot be any federal or state offense “pertaining to antitrust violations, unfair trade practices, restraints of trade, or other similar offenses relating to the regulation of business practices.”

The indictment against Mr. Stanko charged a violation of Section 922(g)(1) based upon a prior conviction of conspiracy of violating the Federal Meat Inspection Act.  Prior to trial, defendant’s attorneys moved to dismiss the indictment on several grounds, including that the crime of which Mr. Stanko was convicted fell within the category of excluded business offenses.  The motion was denied, and the case was submitted to the jury without any mention of the business exclusion or any evidence that the crime of which Mr. Stanko had been convicted fit within the exclusion.

On November 2, 2006, attorneys for Gun Owners Foundation filed an amicus brief in support of Mr. Stanko’s appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, contending:  (a) that the indictment was legally defective because it failed to allege that the predicate crime did not fit within the business exclusion; and (b) that the jury instructions were invalid because they did not submit the business exclusion issue to the jury.  Since the business exclusion is part of the statutory definition of the predicate crime, it is an element of the offense, and thus, must be alleged in the indictment and submitted to the jury.  Failure to do so deprived the defendant of his Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.

Link to brief