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United States v. Bass

decided: November 30, 1970.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
DENNETH BASS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Danaher,*fn* Friendly and Hays, Circuit Judges.

Author: Hays

HAYS, Circuit Judge:

This is an appeal from a judgment entered in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York convicting appellant of two counts of possessing firearms in violation of 18 U.S.C. (Appendix) § 1202(a) (1) (Supp. V. 1970). Appellant was sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment on each of the two counts, the terms to run concurrently.

The indictment in this case stems from an investigation by a United States treasury agent of suspected narcotics violations by appellant. Agent George Jordan, acting in an undercover capacity, met the appellant at his home in order to arrange a purchase of narcotics. Appellant directed Jordan to the basement where the purchase was made from an unknown person. The following day, the agent returned and purchased a quantity of narcotics directly from appellant. At this time, the agent observed that appellant was carrying a Baretta automatic pistol. Jordan obtained an arrest warrant for appellant and a search warrant for appellant's apartment. He then proceeded to the apartment and, after being admitted, observed a sawed-off shotgun on a night table. At this time, other agents knocked on the door and announced themselves; appellant fled and was apprehended at the rear door by a waiting agent. The subsequent search of the apartment produced the Baretta, which was under a bathtub.

The statute under which appellant was convicted provides:

"(a) Any person who --

(1) has been convicted by a court of the United States or of a State or any political subdivision thereof of a felony, or

(2) has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions, or

(3) has been adjudged by a court of the United States or of a State or any political subdivision thereof of being mentally incompetent, or

(4) having been a citizen of the United States has renounced his citizenship, or

(5) being an alien is illegally or ununlawfully in the United States,

and who receives, possesses, or transports in commerce or affecting commerce, after the date of enactment of this Act, any firearm shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned for not more than two years, or both."

18 U.S.C. (Appendix) § 1202(a) (Supp. V. 1970).

It was stipulated at trial that defendant had been previously convicted of the felony of attempted grand larceny in the second degree, so as to place him within the scope of the statute. At trial, appellant did not deny ownership of either the apartment or the weapons. His contention here is that as the government did not specifically allege and prove that the possession of the firearm was "in commerce or affecting commerce," the statutory requirements for conviction have not been fulfilled. Alternatively, defendant argues that should the statute be interpreted to allow conviction for possession of a firearm without proof of some connection with interstate commerce, it would be unconstitutional. Since we agree with ...


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