Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

McLellan: Upholding Gun Convictions Over Multiple Challenges

In United States v. McLellan, No. 18-13289 (May 6, 2020) (Boggs (CA6), Ed Carnes, Rosenbaum), the Court affirmed the defendant’s gun convictions and sentences.

First, the Court concluded that an officer did not provide an improper expert opinion when testifying that, based on his experience, there is a relationship between guns and drugs, as this did not require any scientific or specialized knowledge.   The Court also concluded that there was no Rule 403 violation when an officer testified that less than a gram of meth was “sellable” because  the defendant disputed that he knowingly possessed the gun, he argued that it was for personal use, and other items associating with selling drugs were found.

Second, the Court declined to address the defendant’s ACCA challenge because the district court said it would have imposed the same 15-year sentence anyway—by running the 10-year minimum for one count consecutive with a 5-year sentence for a second gun count.  And that ultimate sentence was not substantively unreasonable.

Third, and finally, the Court rejected the defendant’s Rehaif challenge.  Under recent circuit precedent, the indictment’s failure to allege knowledge of status was not jurisdictional; and, under plain error review, the defendant could not show his substantial rights were affected because he had multiple prior felonies for which he served many years in prison.  Thus, there was substantial evidence that the defendant knew he was a felon.  For the same reason, the Court found no reversible error with respect to his guilty plea on a second gun count, as there was no evidence he would have gone to trial had he been properly advised.