Criminal Law > Criminal Law Keyed to Kadish > Group Criminality
United States v. Xavier
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Brief Fact Summary.
The Defendant, Xavier (Defendant), procured a firearm for his brother, a convicted felon and as a result was convicted of aiding and abetting an ex-felon’s possession of a firearm, a crime under federal law. Because Defendant’s brother was an ex-convict, Defendant violated federal gun laws by procuring a firearm for him.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Unless a defendant has knowledge or cause to believe that the individual for whom he has procured a firearm is an ex-felon, he cannot be held criminally responsible under Section:922(d) for aiding and abetting an ex-felon in the possession of a firearm.
When the Defendant saw an enemy of his sitting in a parked car outside a grocery store, he drove off and then returned with a pistol, which he asked his companion to give to his brother. His brother, an ex-felon, then used the gun to shoot at their enemy sitting in the parked car. The Defendant was subsequently convicted for aiding and abetting his brother, a convicted felon, in the possession of a firearm, in violation of federal law. As an ex-convict, Defendant’s brother was prohibited from carrying a firearm. Thus, Defendant’s conduct in procuring a gun for another person, with the purpose that it be given to his brother, made Defendant an accomplice to his brother’s violation of federal law.
Is a defendant guilty of aiding and abetting an ex-felon in the possession of a firearm if he did not have knowledge or cause to believe that that individual had a prior conviction punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year?
No. Judgment reversed.
Section 922(d), which makes it a crime to sell or “otherwise dispose” of a firearm to a certain class of ex-felons, requires that Defendant have actual knowledge or cause to believe that the individual for whom he has procured a firearm has been convicted of a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year. In the instant case, the government failed to prove that the Defendant had such knowledge regarding his brother’s criminal history. In the absence of evidence of that knowledge about his brother’s status, he cannot be held criminally responsible as an aider and abettor under the statute.
This case demonstrates how, even though the Defendant may have committed a proscribed act, he cannot be criminally liable for the act without proof that he was aware of the principal’s status or attendant circumstances (in this case, his criminal background).