Thursday, November 19, 2009

U.S. v. Mahan, No. 08-30475 (11-16-09). An adult son staying in touch with his mother is commendable; calling her to assess market interest in stolen firearms says something else. In any event, defendant called mom to see if there was interest in the stolen weapons. Mom's boyfriend was interested, and an arrangement was concluded where the guns were traded for $700 and 1/8 ounce of meth. Eventually, the defendant was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm "in furtherance of" a drug trafficking offense under 18 U.S.C. 924(c). On appeal, defendant argues that the court should have granted a judgment of acquittal. The 9th confronts the issue of whether receiving guns in exchange for drugs possesses those drugs in furtherance of drug trafficking. The 9th holds "yes." In its opinion (O'Scannlain joined by N. Smith and Wolle), the 9th first rejects defendant's definition of "in furtherance" as evidencing intention to use the guns to promote drug trafficking. The definition remains one of advancing or helping, and there must be a nexus between the guns and the underlying offense. The 9th goes on to reason that using guns as currency to gain drugs is in fact promoting drug trades and trafficking. The 9th joins five other circuits that have so held. The Supreme's decision in Watson does not control because it deals with "use" as opposed to "further."


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