498 F.2d 713 (D.C. Cir. 1974), 73-1660, United States v. Mayo

Docket Nº:73-1660.
Citation:498 F.2d 713
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America v. Jasper L. MAYO, a/k/a Calvin Daily, Appellant.
Case Date:May 17, 1974
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
 
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Page 713

498 F.2d 713 (D.C. Cir. 1974)

UNITED STATES of America

v.

Jasper L. MAYO, a/k/a Calvin Daily, Appellant.

No. 73-1660.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.

May 17, 1974

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John G. Gill, Jr., Washington, D.C. (appointed by this court), was on the brief for appellant.

Harold H. Titus, Jr., U.S. Atty. at the time the brief was filed, John A. Terry, Barry W. Levine and William D. Pease, Asst. U.S. Attys., were on the brief for appellee.

Before WRIGHT and MacKINNON, Circuit Judges, and DAVIES, [a1] United States Senior District Judge for the District of North Dakota.

MacKINNON, Circuit Judge:

Appellant seeks reversal of his conviction under the National Firearms Act 1

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for possession of an unregistered sawed-off shotgun on the basis that the trial judge erroneously rejected his claim of entrapment. We find the evidence insufficient to support such alleged defense and affirm the judgment of conviction.

I

About 3:30 P.M. on January 10, 1973, two Metropolitan Police officers on duty in a marked police automobile were approached by a young lady who stopped the officers and reported that she had just been raped by two men in a nearby apartment. She also told the policemen that one of the men had a sawed-off shotgun. The policemen then started to drive to the apartment with the young lady when she suddenly pointed out two men walking along the street as her two attackers.

The police, with three reinforcements, then approached the two suspects, and the young lady again identified the two as her attackers. At that point the policemen frisked the suspects and found a sawed-off shotgun concealed beneath appellant's three-quarter length coat. The parties stipulated that the gun was not registered as required by 26 U.S.C. §§ 5812(a) and 5841. 2 A so-called sawed-off shotgun is defined as a firearm for purposes of the National Firearms Act. 3

At trial appellant admitted possession of the weapon and acknowledged knowing at the time that the gun was loaded and that it was illegal to possess or carry such a sawed-off shotgun (Tr. 64). He denied any knowledge that the statute required the registration of the transfer prior to possession. Appellant testified that he had bought the gun from the young lady only ten or fifteen

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minutes before his arrest. Appellant's companion (Streeter) corroborated his testimony and also acknowledged knowing that it was illegal to possess a sawed-off shotgun.

At trial by the court without a jury, by way of a defense, appellant attempted to argue that he was entrapped by the young lady and by operation of the provisions of the statute. This defense was rejected by the judge and appellant was convicted on one count of possession of an unregistered firearm (sawed-off shotgun) in violation of 26 U.S.C. §§ 5861(d) and 5871. 4

II

It is fundamental that a defense based on entrapment requires the 'inducement by an official . . .. The entrapment defense does not extend to inducement by a private citizen . . ..' 5 If, however, a Government official uses a private citizen as an agent, and in such manner induces an otherwise unwilling person to commit an offense which that person would not have committed but for the inducement, then the defense will lie. 6

Applying these principles to this case, we note that there is no evidence of any agency relationship between the young lady and the Government prior to the sale of the sawed-off shotgun. Even if we completely accept appellant's version of the facts there is no showing that any person associated with the Government directly or indirectly suggested, aided, abetted, planned, induced, counselled, approved or wilfully caused the sale to, or possession of, the gun by appellant.

We reject completely, as a conclusion unwarranted by the facts, appellant's argument that because the transferor (allegedly the young lady) was obligated by the statute to register the transfer of the firearm that such facts impliedly made her an agent of the Government for purposes of the entrapment defense. Under the statute, in registering the transfer, the transferor acts solely on his own behalf and not as an agent of the Government.

Even if the statute did constitute the transferor the agent of the Government, her authority as agent would be limited to registering the firearm and would not extend to acting directly contrary to her authority. This rule is particularly applicable where, as here, the act of the alleged agent would constitute a crime. 7 Had the Government engaged the young lady to procure the commission of the crime, the defense of entrapment would lie; 8 but where there

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is no showing that the agent provocateur was purposefully acting on behalf of the Government the defense does not obtain. 9 Here, it is unquestioned that the Government took no part in, and had no prior knowledge of, the transaction.

III

Appellant's argument, however, finally twists itself into a claim, in effect, that he was entrapped

by this system set up by Congress and that (the young lady) violated the provisions of 26 U.S.C. §§ 5861(e) which forbid the transfer of an unregistered firearm.

Br. at 13. In this respect, the essence of his claim is that his violation of the statute should be obviated because it rested in part on the failure of the transferor to comply with the statute by registering the firearm. However, the fact that the gun was not registered was well known to appellant since it would have been impossible to register the transfer in the fifteen minute interval between the transfer and his arrest. The statute prohibits possession of an unregistered firearm and the violation occurred here at the moment appellant assumed dominion over the gun. 10 When a purchaser of such a weapon takes possession immediately upon purchase, and without the statutorily required approval of the transfer and registration, his offense is complete. 11 That the transferor may also have violated the statute by failing to register the transfer, and that the result of her violation is a feature of his offense, is no justification for his illegal act any more than the act of any aider or abettor 12 absolves any principal law violator. It is perfectly reasonable for Congress to require transferors to register the transfer of firearms and to prohibit transferees from possessing such weapons until they are registered. 13 The statute simply requires a purchaser (transferee) to defer taking possession of the weapon until the transaction is registered. This requirement is easily satisfied and does not constitute an illegal trap for the unwary.

Appellant also claims as a defense that he did not possess sufficient knowledge of the registration requirements of the Act to support his conviction. However, even if the lack of scienter had been proved, it would not be a defense to the possession of the illegal firearm specified in this indictment. The statute here involved is one of a great many that regulates conduct and imposes criminal sanctions without requiring a common law mens rea. In a case involving the federal narcotics statute Chief Justice Taft noted

that in the prohibition or punishment of particular acts, the state may in the maintenance of a public policy provide 'that he who shall do them shall do them at his peril and will not be heard to plead in defense good faith or ignorance.' Many instances of this are to be found in regulatory measures in the exercise of what is called the police power where the emphasis of the statute is evidently upon achievement of some social betterment

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rather than the...

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