United States v. Nelson, No. 19-2985 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Fox Crossing police were dispatched after business hours to an office parking lot. Officer Moe saw an occupied Hyundai Sonata and a Mercedes with a flat tire. As Moe approached, a man exited the Hyundai and said that his name was Adam Nelson. Officer Moe ran a check and found that the man had lied. The man backtracked, explaining that he had a suspended driver’s license and that he was Nicholas Nelson. Officer Haag requested an officer with a trained dog. While talking to the Hyundai’s passengers, Haag noticed the smell of alcohol and marijuana and saw what appeared to be small bits of marijuana. Officer Miller arrived with his trained dog, who alerted on the back driver’s side. Officers searched the car. They found some marijuana and a handgun, underneath a sweatshirt, within reach of the driver. Nelson was a convicted felon. The Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory reported a match between Nelson’s DNA profile and DNA found on the gun’s trigger.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed Nelson’s conviction as a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g), upholding the admission of the drug evidence and of the fact that Nelson and one passenger gave false names. The prosecutor’s reference, during closing argument, to the Hyundai as “his [i.e. Nelson’s] car” was immediately corrected by his statement, “I can rephrase. The car that he was driving.”