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United States v. Waln

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

February 28, 2019

United States of America Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
Jesse J. Waln Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: December 13, 2018

          Appeal from United States District Court for the District of South Dakota - Pierre

          Before LOKEN and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges, and MAGNUSON, [1] District Judge.

          MAGNUSON, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         A jury convicted Appellant Jesse J. Waln of two counts of possession of a stolen firearm, but acquitted him of three underlying burglary and larceny charges. The district court[2] sentenced him to 70 months' total imprisonment. Waln appeals his conviction and sentence, and for the following reasons, we affirm.

         An Indictment charged Waln and four others with two counts of first-degree burglary and aiding and abetting, three counts of larceny and aiding and abetting, one count of possession of a stolen firearm, and one count of possession of a stolen firearm and aiding and abetting. The charges arose out of three burglaries on the Rosebud Indian Reservation-one in May 2016, and two in November 2016. The other four defendants, including Waln's brother Jeremiah, pled guilty.

         Waln also pled guilty on the morning of trial to Counts I and II, which charged larceny and burglary in the May incident. After a three-day trial, the jury found Waln not guilty on the three counts charging larceny and burglary in the November incidents. The jury convicted Waln of the two counts of possession of a stolen firearm, however. One of these counts related to a Savage .204 caliber rifle stolen from the home of Beau Westover in one of the November incidents. The other related to a Benelli SuperNova 12 gauge shotgun also stolen from Westover's home in November. The district court denied Waln's motion for judgment of acquittal or a new trial on these counts.

         At sentencing, the district court declined to apply the acceptance-of-responsibility reduction as to the counts that proceeded to trial, even though those counts were grouped with the counts to which Waln pled guilty. The district court found that Waln had not testified truthfully, so that the acceptance-of-responsibility credit was not warranted. The district court ultimately sentenced Waln to 30 months on the guilty-plea counts, 57 months on the two firearms counts, to be served concurrently with the exception of 13 months on the burglary count, which was to run consecutively to the other sentences. Waln received a total sentence of 70 months. The district court made clear that 70 months was the appropriate punishment for Waln, regardless of the applicable guidelines range.

         Waln argues that the district court erred in denying the motion for acquittal or new trial and in failing to give him acceptance-of-responsibility credit. He also contends that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of possession with regard to the Savage rifle. He does not similarly challenge the sufficiency of the evidence with respect to his conviction for possession of the Benelli shotgun.

         A. Standard of Review

         We review the denial of a motion for judgment of acquittal based on the sufficiency of the evidence de novo. United States v. Griffith, 786 F.3d 1098, 1102 (8th Cir. 2015). The court must "view the evidence in the light most favorable to the guilty verdict, granting all reasonable inferences that are supported by that evidence." United States v. Johnson, 745 F.3d 866, 869 (8th Cir. 2014) (quotation omitted). The court reviews a trial court's decision to admit expert witness testimony for an abuse of discretion. United States v. Evans, 272 F.3d 1069, 1094 (8th Cir. 2001).

         The trial court's application of the Guidelines to the facts is reviewed de novo, and its factual findings are reviewed for clear error. United States v. Wiley, 350 F.3d 736, 738 (8th Cir. 2003).

         B. Motion for Acquittal

         Waln challenges two aspects of the district court's denial of his motion for acquittal on the charge of possession of a ...


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