U.S. v. Wright, 75-1247

Decision Date22 June 1976
Docket NumberNo. 75-1247,75-1247
Citation537 F.2d 1144
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Cornelius M. WRIGHT, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit

Edward T. Dangel, III, Boston, Mass. by appointment of the Court, with whom Dangel & Smith and Alan S. Geismer, Jr., Boston, Mass., were on brief, for defendant-appellant.

Henry Hammond, Asst. U. S. Atty., Boston, Mass., with whom James N. Gabriel, U. S. Atty., Boston, Mass., was on brief, for appellee.

Before COFFIN, Chief Judge, ALDRICH and McENTEE, Circuit Judges.

McENTEE, Circuit Judge.

After a jury waived trial, appellant was convicted of making a false statement in connection with the purchase of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a) (6). 1 Specifically, he was found to have falsely certified to a firearms dealer that he had not been convicted of a felony, when in fact he had a record of several felony convictions. 2 (Neither appellant's felony record nor his purchase of the firearm are in dispute.)

On this appeal we must deal with two issues: (1) the district court's determination that appellant violated the statute by recklessly disregarding the declaration on the official form which he signed when he purchased the firearm, and (2) the court's rejection of appellant's explanation that he signed the form because of an excusable mistake on his part.

The district court based its decision that appellant had violated § 922(a)(6) on a finding that in signing Department of the Treasury Form 4473, 3 appellant recklessly disregarded whether the statements to which he was subscribing were true or false. The court stated:

"I find that the defendant acted with a reckless disregard, that it was reckless of him not to read completely at least the black letters, the black letter print on this form. He saw, according to his own testimony that it was headed up Firearms Transaction Record, and it is clearly a government form. It is stamped with a government insignia showing an eagle holding some scales in his beak, and it is apparently the seal or a facsimile of the seal of the Treasury Department of the United States. It is a colored form. It is obviously an official type of form, and it has a good deal of heavy print on it and some black print, and that appears immediately above the box in which the defendant signed.

"It was reckless of him, in my view, to have signed this without reading it more carefully, because of various factors. . . ."

Among the "various factors" which the court specified were the following: appellant's intelligence and "ability to grasp questions immediately and answer them accurately"; the fact that appellant had ample time to read Form 4473 while the salesman was busy doing other paper work; and the court's judgment that appellant's claim of insufficient opportunity to read the form was not credible (although not deliberately false). For these reasons, the court determined that appellant had deliberately avoided reading the form. Our own review of the record does not reveal that the court was clearly erroneous in so determining.

Such a factual determination of recklessness is sufficient to support a conviction under § 922(a)(6). It is true that the statute requires that the false statements be made "knowingly." See United States v. Williams, 464 F.2d 927, 931 (8th Cir. 1972). But this scienter requirement can be met when there is a reckless disregard as to the truth of the statements to which one subscribes and when there is a conscious purpose to avoid learning the truth. See United States v. Squires, 440 F.2d 859 (2d Cir. 1971) (a case upon which the court below specifically relied). See also United States v. Thomas, 484 F.2d 909, 912-13 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 912, 94 S.Ct. 253, 38 L.Ed.2d 151 (1973); United States v. Abrams, 427 F.2d 86, 91 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 400 U.S. 832, 91 S.Ct. 64, 27 L.Ed.2d 63 (1970).

Appellant next argues that the district court erred in finding that the false statement was made knowingly, implicitly rejecting appellant's contention that he acted as the result of misapprehension or mistake. Specifically, he points to the fact that at the time of the transaction at issue here he was in possession of a valid "Firearms Identification Card," 4 issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He contends that he "could naturally be confused . . . by the imperfect intermeshing of State and Federal law"; that "(w)ithout notice, (he) was in the paradoxical position of being entitled to purchase a rifle under Massachusetts law, yet of being precluded from doing so under Federal law"; and that "(h)aving had a valid Firearms...

To continue reading

Request your trial
11 cases
  • McClure v. State, 62125
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 14 Julio 1982
    ...shows and the district court finds that the accused recklessly disregarded the truth of a declaration on ATF Form 4473, United States v. Wright, 537 F.2d 1144 (CA 1, 1976), certiorari denied 429 U.S. 924, 97 S.Ct. 325, 50 L.Ed.2d 292 (1976). Thus, the culpable mental state of appellant on D......
  • United States v. Kozerski, Crim. No. 81-00023-01-D.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Hampshire
    • 20 Julio 1981
    ...truth of the statements to which one subscribes and when there is a conscious purpose to avoid learning the truth. United States v. Wright, 537 F.2d 1144, 1145 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 924, 97 S.Ct. 325, 50 L.Ed.2d 292 (1976). In United States v. Wright, supra, the defendant had p......
  • U.S. v. Ramirez, CR-05-71-B-W.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maine
    • 3 Julio 2007
    ...is different from the customary definition of "knowingly" ... for other types of offenses. It comes from United States v. Wright, 537 F.2d 1144, 1145 (1st Cir.1976), a case arising under 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6). United States v. Santiago-Fraticelli, 730 F.2d 828, 831 (1st Cir.1984), emphasize......
  • United States v. Spring
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maine
    • 9 Agosto 2012
    ...reporting in January, 2011 that he was not a prohibited person when, at that time under governing law, he was. In United States v. Wright, 537 F.2d 1144 (1st Cir.1976), the First Circuit addressed the situation where a defendant thinks that he is or should be permitted to own a gun but as a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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