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United States v. Whiton

February 24, 1995

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
CHARLES F. WHITON, APPELLANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wollman, Circuit Judge.

Submitted October 11, 1994

Rehearing and Suggestion for Rehearing En Banc Denied April 19, 1995

Before WOLLMAN, Circuit Judge, HEANEY, Senior Circuit Judge, and HANSEN, Circuit Judge.

Charles F. Whiton appeals from the judgment of conviction entered by the district court*fn1 following his conditional guilty plea to one count of unlawful possession of a firearm after having been committed to a mental institution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4). We affirm.

I.

On November 2, 1990, Whiton was involuntarily admitted to the Wichita Falls State Hospital (Hospital) in Wichita Falls, Texas, after his girlfriend had alerted authorities that Whiton was exhibiting bizarre behavior. On November 8, 1990, after receiving certificates of medical examination from two psychologists who had examined Whiton, a Texas state court judge found that Whiton was mentally ill and ordered that he be committed to the Hospital for a period of time not to exceed ninety days. After determining that Whiton was capable of participating in outpatient therapy, the Hospital discharged him on November 23, 1990.

On April 23, 1993, Whiton purchased a Ruger, model 10-22, .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle from Sharp's Trading Company in Spearfish, South Dakota. As part of the purchase, Whiton filled out the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Form 4473, stating that he had never been committed to a mental institution. On July 9, 1993, during the execution of a federal search warrant, Whiton admitted to authorities that he had falsely executed Form 4473. Whiton also directed authorities to the location of four additional firearms that were in his possession.

On August 19, 1993, Whiton was indicted on five counts of unlawful possession of a firearm after having been committed to a mental institution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4), and one count of making a false statement in connection with the acquisition of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6). Whiton moved to suppress statements that he made to authorities at the time of his arrest, and he moved three times to dismiss the indictment. The district court denied all of Whiton's motions. Whiton then entered a conditional plea of guilty under Fed.R.Crim.P. 11(a)(2) to one count of violating section 922(g)(4), reserving his right to appeal the district court's denial of his motions. The district court sentenced Whiton to probation for a period of one year. This appeal followed.

II.

Whiton first argues that his involuntary commitment to the Hospital in 1990 did not constitute a commitment within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4). We review the district court's interpretation of section 922(g)(4) de novo, and we begin with a review of the statutory language. United States v. Smith, 35 F.3d 344, 345 (8th Cir.1994). Section 922(g)(4) provides:

It shall be unlawful for any person-

....

(4) who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to ...


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