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United States of America v. Robert Joos

May 3, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF - APPELLEE,
v.
ROBERT JOOS, DEFENDANT - APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

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

Submitted: April 12, 2011

Before LOKEN, BALDOCK*fn1 , and MURPHY, Circuit Judges.

Robert Joos was convicted by a jury of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and being a felon in possession of an explosive, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 842(i)(1). The district court*fn2 sentenced him to 78 months on each count, to run concurrently, followed by three years of supervised release. Joos appeals his convictions, and we affirm.*fn3

I.

In 2005, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) received information from a confidential informant (CI) suggesting that Joos, a felon, was in possession of firearms. Following an investigation, the CI arranged for ATF agent Tristan Moreland to visit Joos in January 2009, posing as an underground firearms dealer.

Moreland initially met with Joos over a three day period at Joos' 200 acre property in Sugar Creek, Missouri. During the meetings, Joos gave Moreland an extensive tour of his property, including the various caves and buildings on it. Moreland testified at trial that during the visits Joos talked about his in depth knowledge of explosives, including the manufacture of homemade explosive devices. He also spoke to Moreland about the use, value, and stockpiling of firearms and ammunition. During one of their initial meetings, Moreland observed firearms concealed under a sheet in the front room of what Joos referred to as his office.

Moreland made a second visit to Joos at his property in February 2009. Moreland testified that they again spoke about firearms and that during the visit, he saw a shotgun by the front door of Joos' office lying in plain view. Joos identified the firearm as a Mossberg brand shotgun.

On June 25, 2009 ATF agent James Patterson led a team of 100 ATF and Missouri state highway patrol SWAT team officers in executing a search warrant on Joos' property. Patterson catalogued the evidence seized by the officers, which included the Mossberg shotgun and a loaded rifle found by the front door of Joos' residence, as well as another eight firearms found inside the residence. The officers seized more than 19,000 rounds of ammunition from the home, as well as a canister of black powder and cannon fuse. In Joos' kitchen, officers found a file marked explosives, which contained a recipe for a homemade explosive device and a government pamphlet summarizing federal explosives laws. A storage structure that Joos called the "bunkhouse" was located about a mile from his residence. In it officers found safety fuses and a box of blasting caps.

ATF special agent Dan Fridley, an interstate nexus expert, examined the seized firearms and ammunition and determined that all the items had been manufactured outside Missouri. The blasting caps were examined by an ATF explosive enforcement officer and determined to be an "explosive" under federal law. They were manufactured in Pennsylvania.

Joos was charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C § 922(g)(1), and being a felon in possession of an explosive, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 842(i)(1). The case was originally scheduled for trial in November 2009, but in October Joos moved for a continuance and requested new counsel. The court granted the continuance, rescheduling the case for December 2009, and appointed new counsel. Joos filed a second motion for a continuance in November, which was again granted by the court. The trial was rescheduled for January 2010.

Joos also filed a pro se "Notice and Demand for Constitutional Rights" in November 2009. In this filing, Joos alleged that he was being punished in violation of the Constitution for possessing firearms and explosives. He demanded his immediate release, return of all property seized, and both compensatory and punitive damages. The district court never ruled on the "Notice and Demand."

One week before his trial in January 2010, Joos filed a pro se motion to remove his second appointed counsel and to delay the trial in order to allow him to prepare to defend himself. Joos asserted that his attorney had treated him disrespectfully, had refused to file a motion to suppress, and had not subpoenaed certain witnesses to testify on his behalf. The district court engaged in a lengthy colloquy about the motion with Joos on the morning of the first day of trial. The court answered a number of questions Joos raised about his defense and advised him that it would not grant another continuance. Joos decided to withdraw his motion to remove his attorney.

During the two day trial, the government presented a number of witnesses, including ATF agents Moreland and Patterson. Agent Moreland testified about his meetings with Joos, including conversations they had had about Joos' antigovernment and racist beliefs. Joos testified on his own behalf and denied that he had owned or been in possession of any of the weapons, ammunition, or explosives found on his property. The jury ...


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