Bloch's Glock, Liquor-Loosened Lips, Easy to Convict
This case in four words: loose lips claim clips.
John Bloch III was prohibited by law from owning firearms for two very good reasons: he was a felon, and he was previously convicted of felony domestic violence (that's § 922(g)(1) and § 922(g)(9). When the police responded to reports of shots fired at his girlfriend's apartment, the wise move would've been silence.
But then there was booze.
Given the circumstances, the police requested that the apartment's occupants, Bloch and his girlfriend, wait in the hall while they checked for anyone needing assistance. Fortunately, there were no wounded. There were, however, two firearms in plain sight: an SKS assault rifle and a loaded Glock pistol (with plenty of spare ammunition!).
As the police officers walked out with the weapons, Block drunkenly voiced his objection to the seizure of his property. He continued to demand the return of his guns on the way to jail.
If that weren't enough, after he befriended his cell mate over games of chess, he confided that he wished he had hidden his weapons in the baby's room instead. Unsurprisingly, the cell mate snitched.
Two confessions were enough for the judge and jury to convict Bloch of violating both § 922(g)(1) and § 922(g)(9). He was sentenced to consecutive terms for the two counts, for a total of 400 months.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
Hah. Let's run down the elements:
- Prior convictions? Undisputed.
- Firearms traveled in, or affected interstate commerce? Undisputed.
- Possession? Well, there was that drunken "give me back my guns" stuff. But that was totally just unreliable booze-speak.
The court says "in vino veritas." Bloch argues insufficient evidence. Oh wait, you also confessed to your cell mate. Two confessions? That'll do.
Concurrent Sentences Violate the Guidelines
Red herring, bro. Just ask the government.
The government pointed out the real error in this case: multiplicity.
Though the government is free to pursue multiple theories at trial for a single possession incident, the defendant can't be punished twice for the same possession offense -- even if he was doubly disarmed by the law. The allowable unit of prosecution is the act of possession, not the number of statutory provisions that disqualify the defendant from firearm possession. Ditto for multiple weapons possessed simultaneously.
The Court commended the government for forthrightly acknowledging the unnoticed mistake and remanded the case for resentencing, as the statutory maximum sentence for the merged convictions is 120 months.
- United States v. John W. Bloch III (Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals)
- Multiplicity: More Than a Bad Michael Keaton Movie (FindLaw's Tenth Circuit Blog)
- Are Edgar County Jail Conditions Cruel and Unusual? (FindLaw's Seventh Circuit Blog)
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.