United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Beckley Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. BERGER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Court has reviewed the Defendant's Motion for
Judgment of Acquittal (Document 141) and Motion for
a New Trial (Document 142), and the United States'
Amended Response to Defendant's Motions for New Trial
and Acquittal (Document 144). For the reasons stated
herein, the Court finds that the motions should be denied.
indictment returned on April 3, 2018, the Defendant was
charged with knowingly making a false and fictitious
statement on a federal firearms form intended to deceive a
federally-licensed firearms dealer in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§§ 922(a)(6) and 924(a)(2), and with illegal
possession of a firearm after having been involuntarily
committed to a psychiatric hospital, in violation of 18
U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(4) and 924(a)(2).
was scheduled for March 11, 2019, following continuances to
permit a competency evaluation and to accommodate a change in
counsel. On March 3, 2019, the Defendant filed a motion to
continue trial or to permit evidence of mens rea. He cited
Rehaif v. United States, No. 17-9560, then scheduled
to be argued before the United States Supreme Court on April
14, 2019, to suggest that the law relevant to Count Two could
change to include a requirement that the United States prove
that he knew of his unlawful status at the time he possessed
the firearm. The Court denied the motion to continue or to
permit otherwise irrelevant evidence at trial, finding that
“the issue of whether Mr. Collins knew he had been
adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental
institution, to the extent it is disputed, is relevant to
Count One, [and] evidence related to that issue will, of
course, be permitted at trial.” (Order at 2, Document
120.) The Court refused to permit evidence or argument
regarding alleged due process violations during the
Defendant's involuntary committal.
a two-day jury trial on March 11 and 12, 2019, the Defendant
was convicted of both counts. The evidence, in short, was
that he was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital on
April 10, 2014. He filed a civil lawsuit contending that his
commitment violated the Constitution and admitted that he was
aware that he had been committed. He purchased a firearm from
a licensed firearms dealer, after completing a form in which
he indicated he had not been involuntarily committed to a
Court instructed the jury, as relevant, that the United
States must prove the following elements as to Count One:
FIRST: That on or about January 6, 2018, in
connection with the acquisition of a firearm from a licensed
firearms dealer, the Defendant made written statements with
respect to information required to be kept in the records of
a federally licensed firearms dealer as evidenced by the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Form
SECOND: That the written statement
indicating that the Defendant has never been committed to a
mental institution was false;
THIRD: That the Defendant knew such
statement was false at the time it was given; and
FOURTH: That the false statement was
intended or likely to deceive the dealer with respect to any
fact material to the lawfulness of the sale of the firearm.
(Jury Charge at 15-16, Document 126.) The Court further
explained the second and third elements, including the
knowledge requirement, as follows:
The second element the United States must prove beyond a
reasonable doubt is that the statement that the Defendant had
never been committed to a mental institution was false.
If you are satisfied that the statement was true, or if you
have a reasonable doubt that it was false, then it is your
duty to acquit. However, if you are satisfied beyond a
reasonable doubt that the statement was false, you must
consider the remaining elements of the crime.
The third element the United States must prove beyond a
reasonable doubt is that the false statement ...