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United States v. Eltahir

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

April 28, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
YASSEEN MOHAMED ELTAHIR

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS D. SCHROEDER, District Judge.

         On April 14, 2017, this matter came before the court for trial on an Indictment charging Defendant Yasseen Mohamed Eltahir as follows: Count I - possession of a firearm (Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun) on May 20, 2016, by a person addicted to a controlled substance, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(3) and 924(a)(2); Count II - possession of ammunition (multiple rounds of TulAmmo 7.62mm x 39mm ammunition; FC .45 caliber ammunition; and 9mm Winchester ammunition) on May 20, 2016, by a person addicted to a controlled substance, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(3) and 924(a)(2); Count III - possession of a firearm (Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun) on May 20, 2016, by a person previously committed to a mental institution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(4) and 924(a)(2); and Count IV - possession of ammunition (multiple rounds of TulAmmo 7.62mm x 39mm ammunition; FC .45 caliber ammunition; and 9mm Winchester ammunition) on May 20, 2016, by a person previously committed to a mental institution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(4) and 924(a)(2).

         Defendant tendered a plea of not guilty to the Indictment and executed a Waiver of Jury Trial (Doc. 26). The court conducted a voir dire of Defendant and found that his waiver of the right to trial by jury was knowing and voluntary.

         At trial, the Government presented evidence of Defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt as to the four charges against him, and the Government did not oppose Defendant's argument that at the time of the alleged offenses he was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of his acts, due to his suffering from bipolar disorder with mood-incongruent psychotic features, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder. See 18 U.S.C. § 17(a). This position is supported by an examination report filed on January 20, 2017, by Robin Watkins, Ph.D., ABPP (Doc. 12 at 23)[1], and her testimony at trial.

         In addition, the court makes the following findings of fact:

         1. Multiple members of law enforcement testified credibly as to the facts establishing Defendant's guilt. These included Greensboro Police Department Officers Robert Finch and Justin Payne, who testified that on April 11, 2016, they responded to Defendant's apartment and spoke to Defendant's father, who reported that Defendant possessed an AR-15 rifle in a prayer rug and a .45 caliber pistol. Officers were told by Defendant's counselor, Matthew Trueblood, that Defendant had been adjudicated mentally ill. Subsequently, officers sought and obtained Defendant's mental health records.

         2. The next day, April 12, 2016, Greensboro Police served involuntary commitment papers on Defendant, who was taken to the hospital and was involuntarily committed for mental health reasons. This was one of some seventeen commitments of Defendant for mental health reasons.

         3. Greensboro Police Officer Jeremiah S. Ruggiero visited Defendant's house in about May 2016 to serve papers on Defendant for involuntary commitment and observed Defendant with a strong odor of marijuana. The odor was so strong that Officer Ruggiero had to go to the hospital to assist medical personnel, who refused to treat Defendant until he was strip searched to ensure he had no further marijuana on him.

         4. On or about May 20, 2016, members of various law enforcement agencies, including Winston-Salem Police Officer George Jenkins and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Norm Kuylen, conducted a lawful search of Defendant's residence at 5522 West Market Street, Greensboro, North Carolina, Apartment F, pursuant to a search warrant. Officers seized a Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol from Defendant's waistband and a large quantity of various ammunition (including that charged in the Indictment) and a high capacity rifle and magazine from his bedroom. Officers also found a marijuana smoking pipe (Government (“Gov't”) Exs. 30, 31) and photos of Defendant holding firearms and a marijuana blunt.

         5. Willie Lee Jeffries, a friend of Defendant since about 2009, shared a common interest with Defendant in firearms and sold Defendant a .45 caliber handgun and a 9mm black and silver handgun approximately two months before May 2016. Jeffries also sold Defendant an AR-15 rifle for $700. At the time of these sales, Defendant was a regular marijuana smoker.

         6. As the parties stipulated at trial (Gov't Ex. 59), the Smith & Wesson pistol found on Defendant's person is a firearm as that term is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3).

         7. Based on the foregoing, the court finds beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant knowingly possessed a firearm and multiple rounds of ammunition as those terms are used in 18 U.S.C. § 922(g).

         8. The court finds beyond a reasonable doubt that, as the parties stipulate (Gov't Ex. 59), the relevant firearm and ammunition were manufactured outside North Carolina and moved in interstate commerce, and Defendant's possession of those items was therefore in or affecting commerce, as that phrase is used in 18 U.S.C. § 922(g).

         9. At the time of the offense conduct, Defendant was a daily user of marijuana, as Dr. Watkins testified at trial and as mental health records and the evidence reflect. For example, Dr. Watkins testified, and the court finds, that Defendant tested positive for THC when he was admitted to hospitals (e.g., Gov't Ex. 3O (noting on April 13, 2016 admission that Defendant was a “substance abuser, ” “THC” positive, and was given an impression/diagnosis of “Cannabis use disorder”); Gov't Ex. 3N (noting on January 6, 2016 admission that Defendant “self medicates daily by smoking marijuana”)) at times relevant to his possession of the firearm and ammunition ...


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