United States v. Collins, 060611 FED6, 08-4473

Docket Nº:08-4473
Opinion Judge:JULIA SMITH GIBBONS, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Petitioner-Appellee, v. ANNTRINA COLLINS, Defendant-Appellant.
Judge Panel:Before: MOORE, GIBBONS, and MCKEAGUE, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:June 06, 2011
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Petitioner-Appellee,

v.

ANNTRINA COLLINS, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 08-4473

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

June 6, 2011

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION

ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO

Before: MOORE, GIBBONS, and MCKEAGUE, Circuit Judges.

JULIA SMITH GIBBONS, Circuit Judge.

Defendant-appellant Anntrina Collins appeals a jury's verdict finding her guilty of two counts of making false statements in the acquisition of firearms, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6), and one count of unlawful disposal of a firearm through delivery to a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(1). On direct appeal, Collins argues: (1) the district court erred in denying the government's motion to disqualify Collins's counsel, when her counsel also represented her husband, whose interests were adverse to hers; (2) Collins was denied effective assistance of counsel; (3) the district court erred by permitting the government to introduce evidence of prior bad acts that deprived Collins of a fair trial; and (4) the district court abused its discretion by imposing a sentence of forty-eight months' imprisonment when the Sentencing Guidelines recommended a sentence between fifteen and twenty-one months. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

I.

The facts of this case are based on the record developed at trial. Anntrina Collins is a thirty-seven year-old mother of four. In 1996, she married Ronald Gunter, who is the biological father of three of Collins's children. The couple separated in 2007 but remain legally married. Collins has a bachelor's degree in business and, prior to her conviction, held steady employment as an administrative assistant with various business organizations.

On November 19, 2005, Carleton Gilmore was the victim of a felonious assault, robbery, and attempted murder. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives ("ATF") Special Agent Christopher Arone traced one of the firearms used in the assault—a Hi-Point .9 millimeter pistol—and found that Collins had purchased the pistol, and a second one, at a gun show twenty-seven days earlier.

At trial Collins testified that she had attended a gun show in Berea, Ohio, with Gunter on October 22 and 23, 2005. Collins alleged that she had a problem with trespassers and wanted a gun for protection. According to Collins, she had no specific knowledge about firearms, but while at the gun show she learned that Kalashnikov automatic rifles—commonly known as AK-47s—would be a "good investment" and consequently purchased two. Collins explained that after purchasing the assault rifles she was out of money, so she returned the next day and purchased two Hi-Point handguns for herself and her sister. Then, after a person at the gun show told her that the Taurus handgun was better, she purchased one of those as well. She also purchased one more AK-47, after the dealer reiterated what a good investment it would be. Collins thus purchased six guns at the gun show—three AK-47s, two Hi-Point handguns, and a Taurus handgun. While filling out the required forms, Collins initially answered "No" when asked if she were purchasing the guns for herself; she then crossed out the "No" and put "Yes." At trial she explained this was simply a mistake because she was filling out the forms too fast. Although Collins was unemployed at the time of the purchases, she stated that she got the money for the guns from her student loans.

Collins reported that she put the guns in storage. She and Gunter placed the AK-47s and one of the Hi-Points in the garage. The Hi-Point was stored in a cubbyhole, and the AK-47s were stored in a chicken coop. Collins planned to leave the AK-47s in the garage until a display case could be built. She stored the Taurus and the second Hi-Point in her home.

Shortly thereafter, Collins recounted, she realized that she had spent too much money at the gun show and that she would need money for Christmas. Collins told Gunter to let her know if he knew anyone who would want to buy a gun. She allegedly gave him permission to sell one of the Hi-Points, although she also stated that she never gave Gunter actual possession of the gun, which later ended up missing.1 Not long afterward, Agent Arone contacted Collins.

In his testimony, Arone explained that, upon matching the Hi-Point from Gilmore's assault, and noting that one of the suspects from the assault was not allowed to possess firearms, he went to Collins's house to investigate in February 2006. Arone recorded his interviews with Collins that day without her knowledge.

Arone learned that a Taurus remained in Collins's home; both of the Hi-Points were gone. Because he had been drawn to Collins's home from his investigation into the Hi-Point, Arone testified that this visit was the first time he learned that Collins had also purchased the Taurus. Arone testified that Collins did not mention the purchase of the AK-47s during the first interview; rather she said she had only purchased the handguns.

Arone testified that several things Collins told him during the first interview "raised red flags." For example, Arone testified that Collins told him she had purchased the Taurus for protection, but in his visit Arone saw that she kept it unloaded. Arone also testified that he wondered why Collins would store a gun in the unsecured garage, as she said she had done with the Hi-Point that was no longer there. Arone wondered why Collins promised she would show him both Hi-Points when he knew one of them had been recovered in November and "could not possibly be there." And Arone wondered at Collins's statement that she gave a Hi-Point to Gunter, a convicted felon, to sell for Christmas money.2 In light of these concerns, Arone further investigated Collins upon his return to the office. He discovered that she had purchased another Hi-Point in 2000, which had been found in Gunter's possession just twenty-one days later.

Because of these new findings, Arone returned to Collins's house later that same day. On the second visit, Collins admitted to having purchased other guns at the gun show, including the AK-47s. When Arone inquired about those AK-47s, Collins told him that they had been "given away." Therefore, at the time of Arone's visit, only the Taurus was in Collins's home and accounted for by her.

A little over a year later, Gunter and Carleton Gilmore were detained in a traffic stop by Cleveland police. The Taurus that Arone had seen at Collins's home was found in the car, and Gunter eventually claimed responsibility for it. Gunter thus had possession of the Taurus even though, after Collins had told Arone that Gunter was a convicted felon, Arone had informed Collins that Gunter was prohibited from possessing firearms.

Collins was indicted on January 30, 2008, on one count of making false statements in the acquisition of firearms in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6). The false statement at issue was Collins's statement that she was the buyer when in fact she was not the actual buyer. A superseding indictment followed on April 15, 2008, which upped the number of false statement charges to three and added a charge for knowingly delivering a firearm to Gunter, a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(1).

Prior to trial, the trial court ruled on two motions that are central to this appeal. The first motion was made by the government and concerned a potential conflict of interest for Collins's attorney, Carolyn Kaye Ranke. Collins had chosen a lawyer who had previously represented Gunter in six different criminal matters, including the 2007 arrest for possession of the Taurus. The government worried that Collins's counsel would be conflicted over "how to effectively cross-examine a former client, to the benefit of a current client, without using information obtained from the former client in confidence." The government was so concerned about the conflict that it argued, "[s]hould Attorney Ranke continue to represent Collins and a conviction result, Collins is virtually guaranteed a successful . . . challenge to her conviction."

Collins responded that, while her attorney had previously represented Gunter, she had also represented Collins in civil matters and served as the "family attorney." In her response, Collins stated both that she desired to...

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