Submitted: November 11, 2019
from United States District Court for the District of
Nebraska - Lincoln
GRUENDER, KELLY, and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.
ERICKSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Parsons appeals after a jury found him guilty of being a
felon in possession of a firearm, claiming that the the
district court erred by denying his Rule 29 motion for
judgment of acquittal because the evidence was insufficient
to sustain his conviction. Because we find the evidence was
sufficient to support Parson's conviction, we affirm.
claims to be an ambassador and diplomat of the
Tsilhqot'in (Chilcotin) Nation, located in British
Columbia, Canada. In 2009, Parsons was convicted of
aggravated assault - a felony offense - in Tipton County,
Tennessee. In January 2017, Parsons absconded while on
pretrial release awaiting trial on new Tennessee state
charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm. A
warrant was issued in Tennessee for his failure to appear.
January 11, 2017, Parsons piloted a small plane to the
Arapahoe Airport located in Furnas County, Nebraska. It
appears that Parsons was en route to the Tsilhqot'in
Nation in Canada. That same day, law enforcement officers
triangulated Parsons' cell phone activity to the area
surrounding the Arapahoe Airport. Parsons elected to sleep in
the airport overnight and was arrested at the airport the
next morning by officers from several state and federal
agencies. Because the law enforcement officers mistakenly
believed that Parsons had arrived by motor vehicle, they did
not impound or search Parsons' plane at the time of
Parsons' arrest. It is undisputed that the plane remained
in the hangar for approximately two months, and that several
people had access to the plane during this time.
March 22, 2017, officers from the Federal Bureau of
Investigation searched the plane pursuant to a warrant and
discovered an AR-15 style rifle, three fully-loaded 30-round
magazines and additional ammunition. Items bearing
Parsons' name, including an insurance application and a
hangar receipt, were found near the gun. Parsons was charged
with being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation
of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).
elected to proceed to trial pro se. The jury heard
evidence related to the plane and its contents. The evidence
included excerpts from three recorded jail calls made by
Parsons prior to the search of the plane. During the recorded
calls Parsons alluded to items (which he referred to as
"gifts" and the "nation's items")
that were left in the plane and that needed to be removed
from the plane immediately.
enforcement traced and testified about the provenance of the
gun, showing an original purchase in Alabama in 2006 by
Matthew Lovan. Lovan testified that he sold the gun to
Parsons in 2008 and he never saw it again. Parsons himself
testified that he purchased a gun from Lovan, and he admitted
that the firearm found in the plane appeared to be the same
gun that he purchased from Lovan. Notwithstanding this
admission, Parsons claimed to have traded the gun to a friend
who later passed away.
the government rested, Parsons moved for a judgment of
acquittal under Fed. R. Crim. P. 29, which the district court
denied. Parsons was convicted, and the district court imposed
a below-guidelines sentence of 84 months' imprisonment.
Parsons now appeals, contending insufficiency of the
evidence. He asserts the district court erred when it denied
his Rule 29 motion. Parsons claims the evidence failed to
establish he "knowingly" possessed a firearm
because the airplane where the gun was found had been left
unlocked and unattended before law enforcement officers found
review sufficiency of the evidence in a criminal case de
novo, viewing the evidence "in the light most
favorable to the government, resolving conflicts in the
government's favor, and accepting all reasonable
inferences that support the verdict." United States
v. Morris, 723 F.3d 934, 938 (8th Cir. 2013) (quotation
omitted). Reversal is warranted only when "no reasonable
jury could find all the elements ...