United States v. Diaz, No. 19-11112 (5th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiring to acquire a firearm from a licensed firearms dealer by false or fictitious statement. Defendant and her husband served as illegal straw-purchasers in a weapons-trafficking arrangement.
The court concluded that the district court did not plainly err when it instructed defendant as to the elements of 18 U.S.C. 922(a)(6). The court rejected defendant's contention that the reasoning in Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191, 2200 (2019) -- which held that, in a prosecution under 18 U.S.C. 922(g) and 924(a)(2), the Government must prove both that the defendant knew he possessed a firearm and that he knew he belonged to the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a firearm -- extends to section 922(a)(6). Plaintiff argued that, to convict for conspiracy to violate section 922(a)(6), the government must prove not only that she knowingly made a false statement but also that she made such statement to a seller she knew to be a licensed dealer. However, the court explained that Rehaif does not compel such a conclusion and that Rehaif expressly limited its application in relation to other portions within subsection (g). The court concluded that, even if Rehaif compels the inclusion of the scienter requirement for which defendant advocates for prosecutions under sections 922(a)(6) and 924(a)(2), that is not the crime of which she pleaded guilty. Furthermore, section 371 does not contain the "knowingly" requirement included in section 924(a)(2). Even after Rehaif, and even for prosecutions under sections 922(a)(6) and 924(a)(2), the court has continued to adhere to its long-held view of what the government must prove under section 922(a)(6). The court also rejected defendant's claim for selective or vindictive prosecution based on her appeal waiver. Finally, the court dismissed defendant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.