United States v. Mast, No. 18-1861 (8th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
After defendant installed drain tile on his property in a manner consistent with the NRCS map but inconsistent with the FWS map, defendant was convicted of the lesser-included offense of disturbing property in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The Eighth Circuit vacated the conviction and held that the district court erroneously instructed the jury that the lesser offense was a strict liability crime when, in fact, the lesser offense requires proof of defendant's negligence. In this case, the evidence presented at trial would have been sufficient to allow a reasonable juror to convict defendant under the proper formulation of the lesser offense, but given the jury's acquittal of defendant on the greater offense of knowingly disturbing property, the court could not say that the evidence of his culpable mental state was so overwhelming that it rendered the erroneous instruction harmless.