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United States v. McBride

United States District Court, D. Maine

March 5, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
REGINALD McBRIDE

          ORDER ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE

          JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         With trial looming, the Government filed three motions in limine. Although the justification of self-defense is not available to a defendant charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, the Court concludes that the Defendant may put the Government to its proof to establish that his use and possession of the firearm was during and in relation to and in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The Court grants the Government's motions in limine to permit the Government to introduce evidence that the Defendant was a prohibited person at the time of his possession and use of the firearm and that the firearm was stolen in order to support its case that the Defendant possessed and used the firearm during and in relation to and in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The Court holds in abeyance other related evidentiary issues until presented in the specific context of the trial.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 10, 2016, a federal grand jury issued an indictment against Kweasia[1] McBride alleging that he committed a federal crime: being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm, an alleged violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Indictment (ECF No. 1). The asserted basis for his prohibition was the commission of five prior felonies. Id. at 1-2. On February 15, 2017, a federal grand jury issued a superseding indictment against Mr. McBride, alleging that in addition to the felon in possession of a firearm charge, he committed two other federal crimes: (1) possession with the intent to distribute heroin, an alleged violation of 21 U.S.C. §841(b)(1)(C), and (2) carrying and discharging a firearm during and in relation to and in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, an alleged violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(iii). Superseding Indictment (ECF No. 24). On November 8, 2017, a federal grand jury issued a second superseding indictment, striking an allegation in the superseding indictment about a 1998 conviction in the state of New York for criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree as constituting a predicate felony, but leaving the allegation that Mr. McBride had committed the remaining four felonies before his alleged June 26, 2016 possession of a firearm. Second Superseding Indictment at 1-2 (ECF No. 48). On January 23, 2018, the case was scheduled for jury trial beginning on March 8, 2018 with jury selection on March 6, 2018. Notice of Hr'g (ECF No. 69, 70).

         On November 9, 2017, the Government filed three motions in limine. Gov't's First Set of Mots. in Limine (ECF No. 51) (Gov't's First Mot.); Gov't's Second Mot. in Limine (ECF No. 54) (Gov't's Second Mot.); Gov't's Third Mot. in Limine (ECF No. 55) (Gov't's Third Mot.). On December 8, 2017, Mr. McBride responded to the first motion in limine. Def.'s Resp. to Gov't's First Mot. in Limine (ECF No. 65) (Def.'s First Resp.). On November 30, 2017, he responded to the Government's second and third motions in limine. Def.'s Resp. to Gov't's Second & Third Mots. in Limine (ECF No. 61) (Def.'s Second & Third Resp.). The Government replied to Mr. McBride's responses on December 13, 2017 and December 21, 2017 respectively. Gov't's Reply to Def.'s Resp. to Gov't's Second & Third Mots. in Limine (ECF No. 67) (Gov't's Second & Third Replies); Gov't's Reply to Def.'s Resp. to Gov't's First Mot. in Limine (ECF No. 68) (Gov't's First Reply).

         II. THE FACTS

         A. The Government's Proffered Evidence

         In its memorandum, the Government proffered:

         On June 26, 2016, Mr. McBride was the passenger in a Ford Taurus car and a female drove him in the Ford to a Walmart store in Augusta, Maine. Gov't's First Mot. at 2. A Volkswagen car followed the Ford to the Walmart parking lot. Id. Once the Ford and Volkswagen arrived at the parking lot, there was a dispute between the occupants of both vehicles. Id. During the dispute, Mr. McBride grabbed his firearm, a Kel-Tec 9 mm pistol and fired multiple rounds at a male who had traveled to the Walmart in the Volkswagen. Id. The male at whom Mr. McBride fired his pistol, fired shots back at Mr. McBride. Id. After Mr. McBride fired the Kel-Tec pistol at the other male, Mr. McBride threw the pistol on the ground. Id. Mr. McBride then became involved in a physical altercation with the other male and with a female who had been in the Volkswagen. Id. at 2-3. The altercation took place near the Volkswagen and Ford cars. Id. at 3.

         After the altercation, Mr. McBride got back into the Ford and the female driver drove from the Walmart parking lot with him. Id. Police officers followed the Ford and stopped it in a residential driveway. Id. Officers approached the female driver and Mr. McBride and detained them. Id. Officers found suspected heroin in Mr. McBride's possession and a laboratory screening confirmed that the substance was heroin and that it weighed 40.991 grams. Id.

         After the shooting on June 26, 2016, officers conducted a Mirandized interview of Mr. McBride. Id. Mr. McBride admitted possessing the pistol he discharged in the Walmart parking lot, discharging the pistol multiple times, and throwing it on the ground. Id. Mr. McBride admitted that the pistol he fired was his pistol, that he pulled out the pistol during the dispute, and that he purchased the pistol. Id. He claimed that he had bought the pistol legally. Id.

         On July 6, 2016, officers executed a search warrant on the Ford. Id. Underneath the passenger seat where Mr. McBride had been sitting, officers located a loaded, Imperial Metal Products, model 7, .22 caliber revolver. Id. In the trunk, officers found a Jennings, model 38, .32 caliber firearm and a Cobra Enterprises of Utah, Inc. model C22M, .22 caliber firearm. Id. Also in the trunk, officers found multiple scales, ammunition, and a firearms speed loader. Id.

         Before June 26, 2016, Mr. McBride was prohibited from possessing firearms because he had multiple felony convictions. Id. at 3-4. Officers discovered that the Kel-Tec pistol had been stolen and that Mr. McBride was not the original purchaser of the Kel-Tec. Id. at 4.

         III. THE PARTIES' POSITIONS

         A. The First Motion in Limine: Self-Defense

         1. The Government's Motion

         In the Government's first motion in limine, the Government seeks to prevent Mr. McBride from presenting evidence of self-defense to the charge in Count One of the second superseding indictment, the felon in possession charge, because in its view self-defense is not a legal justification to the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Id. at 4-6. Similarly, the Government seeks an order prohibiting Mr. McBride from presenting evidence of self-defense to the charge in Count Three of the second superseding indictment, the carrying and using a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense, possessing the firearm in furtherance of the drug trafficking crime, and discharging the firearm. Id. at 7-10.

         2. Kweasia McBride's Response

         In his response, Mr. McBride confirms that he does not intend to assert self-defense as a defense to Counts One and Three. Def.'s First Resp. at 1. In his words, he “does not intend to argue at trial that the circumstances justified the Defendant in having ‘carried and used during and in relation to . . . .'” Id. at 2. Nor does he “argue that the circumstances justified the Defendant in having ‘possessed [a firearm] in furtherance of . . . .'” Id.

         Nevertheless, Mr. McBride does intend to put the Government to its proof on whether he carried and used a firearm “during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, ” id. at 2, and whether he “possessed [a firearm] in furtherance of” a drug trafficking crime. Id. In other words, Mr. McBride intends to argue that his possession and use of the firearms were related not to a drug trafficking offense but “as a necessary response under the circumstances for protection of self or another.” Id.

         3. The ...


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