U.S. v. Remsza

Decision Date12 March 1996
Docket NumberNo. 95-2580,95-2580
Citation77 F.3d 1039
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Michael A. REMSZA, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, No. 94 CR 160; Thomas J. Curran, Judge.

Chris R. Larson (argued), Office of the United States Attorney, Milwaukee, WI, for plaintiff-appellee.

Michael J. Fitzgerald (argued), Coffey, Coffey & Geraghty, Milwaukee, WI, for defendant-appellant.

Before WOOD, Jr., ESCHBACH, and DIANE P. WOOD, Circuit Judges.

ESCHBACH, Circuit Judge.

Michael Remsza was indicted for falsely representing to Francis McGowan and Badger Guns & Ammunition, licensed firearms dealers in Wisconsin, that he was the purchaser of three weapons when in fact Remsza purchased the weapons for Scott Turknette and Darin Senn. Turknette and Senn, California residents, were ineligible to purchase the weapons themselves. At trial, the government introduced evidence that Remsza had similarly purchased firearms for other persons. Remsza made no objection. In cross-examination by the government, Remsza effectively admitted that he also lied to the firearms dealers about his drug use. Remsza made no objection to the government's cross-examination. The district court gave a broad jury instruction, suggesting that Remsza could be convicted if the jury found that Remsza intentionally made a false statement to McGowan and Badger Guns & Ammunition. Still, Remsza made no objection. Remsza was convicted, and then asked the district court to reverse the verdict or grant a new trial, arguing that the testimony and jury instruction constructively amended the indictment. The district court refused. Now Remsza appeals, asking us to vacate his conviction as to counts three and four and remand for a new trial. Remsza renews his claim that counts three and four were constructively amended and argues, in the alternative, that his counsel's failure to make the requisite objections at trial amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel. Because we conclude that Remsza suffered no prejudice as a result of the testimony, the jury instruction, or his counsel's conduct, we AFFIRM.


On November 1, 1994, a grand jury indicted Michael Remsza on four counts. The first court charged Remsza with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, including marijuana and cocaine. Count two alleged that Remsza distributed marijuana. Count three charged Remsza with making a false statement to Badger Guns & Ammunition, a licensed firearms dealer in Wisconsin, on an ATF form in connection with the purchase of a Colt semi-automatic .380 caliber pistol. The false statement was that Remsza, a Wisconsin resident, was the purchaser of the pistol when in fact the actual purchaser was out-of-state resident Scott Turknette. Similarly, count four charged Remsza with making a false statement to Francis J. McGowan and Badger Guns & Ammunition, both of whom are licensed firearms dealers in Wisconsin on ATF forms in connection with the purchase of a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and a semi-automatic rifle. The false statement was that Remsza was the purchaser of the guns when in fact the actual purchaser was out-of-state resident Darin Senn.

At trial, the government produced overwhelming proof that Remsza made the false statements described in counts three and four. 1 The government introduced evidence demonstrating that Remsza took part in a conspiracy with Turknette and Senn, among others, to ship drugs from California to Wisconsin. Remsza purchased firearms in Wisconsin on behalf of his California compatriots even though as out-of-state residents they were legally precluded from buying the weapons directly from a Wisconsin firearms dealer.

Scott Turknette testified that in "mid spring" of 1994 he wanted a handgun to use in conjunction with his job as bouncer for a California nightclub. He said that he wanted a gun from Wisconsin because Wisconsin has cheaper guns and a shorter waiting period than California. To acquire the gun, Turknette turned to Remsza. Turknette said that he accompanied Remsza to Badger Guns & Ammunition (hereafter "Badger Guns"). He showed Remsza the gun that he wanted--a Smith & Wesson .380 special-and gave Remsza $440 to purchase the gun. Remsza purchased the gun. However, Remsza decided that he liked the gun and kept it, promising to buy Turknette another gun. According to Turknette, Remsza kept his word. The two returned to Badger Guns; this time Turknette wanted a .380 caliber semi-automatic. After Turknette indicated to Remsza the gun that he wanted, Remsza bought the gun. Remsza received the gun after the requisite waiting period and delivered the gun to Turknette.

Darin Senn testified that he attended a gun show at the State Fair Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on April 23 and 24, 1994. An H & K 9 mm semi-automatic assault pistol 2 and a semi-automatic assault rifle caught Senn's eye. Senn said that the gun dealer, Francis McGowan, refused to sell the guns to Senn because Senn was not a Wisconsin resident. Senn turned to Remsza. According to Senn, Remsza made the purchases with drug proceeds furnished by Senn. Because McGowan lived far away, Remsza arranged to have the guns delivered to Badger Guns. Remsza picked up the guns from Badger Guns and delivered them to another coconspirator, Allen Stockman.

Apparently in an effort to introduce "other acts" evidence, the government called Perry Earl. Earl is a coconspirator of Remsza's who is also non-resident of Wisconsin. Earl testified that Remsza purchased a Valmet 223 assault weapon for him at the same gun show where Remsza purchased the guns for Darin Senn.

Testifying in his own defense, Remsza denied that he purchased any of the weapons in question for either Turknette or Senn. To impeach Remsza's credibility on cross-examination, the prosecutor asked Remsza whether he had lied in answering other questions on the ATF forms. Remsza testified that he is an occasional drug user. Remsza's testimony effectively was an admission that he lied on the ATF forms about his drug use. To further impugn Remsza's credibility, the government in its closing argument reminded the jury of Remsza's penchant for lying. The prosecutor said:

[W]hat Mr. Remsza did was purchase those guns for Darin Senn, the one that was the out-of state resident, the one that is the ineligible purchaser. And we'll talk a little bit about those firearms purchases in a minute.

Now, this is not the only time that Mr. Remsza has lied. He lied on at least four ATF forms regarding his drug use. He lied to the probation office while out on bond in this case....

(Tr. at 715).

Now, the evidence also showed in this case that there was a fourth straw purchase of a Valmet for Perry Earl, if you remember at the gun show. And, ladies and gentlemen, in addition to all the other evidence, that show's what Mr. Remsza's intent really was when he did the transactions that are named in the indictment in counts three and four.

(Tr. at 722).

At the close of the trial, the district court instructed the jury as follows regarding counts three and four:

Now, counts three and four of the indictment allege that the defendant, Michael A. Remsza, made a false and fictitious statement to a licensed firearms dealer, with respect to a fact material to the sale, in order to buy a firearm. Considering the evidence as to each count separately, in order for you to find the defendant guilty of this crime, you must be convinced that the government has proved each of the following things beyond a reasonable doubt:

The first is, that the defendant ... made a false statement while acquiring a firearm from Badger Guns and Ammunition, a licensed dealer.

Second, that Michael Remsza knew that the statement was false.

Third, that the statement was intended or likely to deceive Badger Guns and Ammunition with respect to a fact material to the lawfulness--to the unlawfulness of the sale.

(Tr. at 763).

Remsza made no objection to Earl's testimony, the drug use cross-examination, the prosecutor's closing argument, or the jury instruction. On January 13, 1995, a jury found Remsza guilty on all counts. On January 24, 1995, Remsza filed a motion for judgment of acquittal or for a new trial as to counts three and four. Remsza argued that the evidence presented by the government in combination with the jury instructions constructively amended counts three and four in violation of the Fifth Amendment. The district court denied Remsza's motion. Remsza now brings this timely appeal. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291.


A constructive amendment is per se reversible where the defendant raised the proper objections below. Stirone v. United States, 361 U.S. 212, 217, 80 S.Ct. 270, 273, 4 L.Ed.2d 252 (1960); United States v. Willoughby, 27 F.3d 263, 266 (7th Cir.1994). However, the government correctly argues that because Remsza objected to neither the evidence nor the jury instruction in question, he waived 3 the objection on appeal. Therefore, we review for plain error. United States v. Leichtnam, 948 F.2d 370, 375 (7th Cir.1991). Reviewing Remsza's conviction for plain error, we affirm.

A constructive amendment occurs where the offense proven at trial was not included within the parameters of the indictment. United States v. Mosley, 786 F.2d 1330, 1335 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1184, 106 S.Ct. 2919, 91 L.Ed.2d 548 (1986). An amendment may result in either one of two ways. An amendment can result where a "complex set of facts" is presented to the jury that is "distinctly different" from the facts set forth in the indictment. United States v. Kuna, 760 F.2d 813, 817 (7th Cir.1985). Alternatively, an amendment can result where the evidence presented at trial proves a violation of substantive law "materially different" from that charged in the indictment. Id. In the case at...

To continue reading

Request your trial
33 cases
  • United States v. Heon Seok Lee
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • August 21, 2019
    ...preserved the error in the district court. If the issue was waived or forfeited, we review only for plain error. United States v. Remsza , 77 F.3d 1039, 1043–44 (7th Cir. 1996) (assessing defendant’s constructive amendment argument under a plain error standard due to defendant’s failure to ......
  • U.S. v. McKee
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • October 29, 2007
    ...not have affected the outcome of the trial" and therefore there was no prejudice under a plain error analysis); United States v. Remsza, 77 F.3d 1039, 1044 (7th Cir.1996) ("In the context of plain error review, the amendment must constitute a mistake so serious that but for it the defendant......
  • U.S. v. Brandao
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts
    • September 8, 2006
    ...se rule to the plain error context." United States v. Syme, 276 F.3d 131, 152 (3d Cir.2002) (Becker, C.J.); accord United States v. Remsza, 77 F.3d 1039, 1043 (7th Cir.1996). The circuit courts are split on the question of whether a defendant must demonstrate prejudice to achieve reversal b......
  • United States v. Simmons
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • May 28, 2021
    ..., 252 F.3d 411, 413–14 & n.8 (5th Cir. 2001) ; United States v. Russell , 595 F.3d 633, 643–44 (6th Cir. 2010) ; United States v. Remsza , 77 F.3d 1039, 1044 (7th Cir. 1996) ; United States v. Gavin , 583 F.3d 542, 546–47 (8th Cir. 2009) ; United States v. Hugs , 384 F.3d 762, 766–68 (9th C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT