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United States v. Mathis

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 27, 2018

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
Richard Mathis Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: September 28, 2018

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Davenport

          Before SMITH, Chief Judge, MELLOY and STRAS, Circuit Judges.

          SMITH, Chief Judge.

         Richard Mathis challenges the 80-month sentence he received after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2), and 924(e). He specifically challenges the district court's[1] finding that he used a firearm to facilitate the crime of harboring a runaway. Based on this finding, the district court imposed a four-level sentencing enhancement pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B). The court also varied upward. On appeal, Mathis argues the district court abused its discretion in imposing the four-level sentencing enhancement. He claims the district court erred in finding by a preponderance of the evidence that he had harbored a runaway and had used or possessed a firearm to facilitate that crime. Mathis also argues the district court abused its discretion in varying upward.

         I. Background Mathis picked up a 15-year-old boy, K.G., from school and drove him to Mathis's house in Atallisa, Iowa. Mathis had met K.G. on a website called "Meetme.com," and Mathis had invited K.G. to come stay with him. An investigation of Mathis's online activity revealed frequent, sexually explicit communication with young males in which Mathis promised to provide them with a place to live, a car, and a job if they moved.

         On February 15, 2013, K.G.'s mother reported him missing. Investigators tracked K.G. to Mathis's home by "pinging" his cell phone, and on February 25, police questioned Mathis's roommate, Wanda Gott, outside their residence. Gott claimed no minors were inside the house. In fact, K.G. had been inside the house with Mathis during the questioning. Gott later admitted knowing that K.G. was inside and that he was a runaway.

         About two weeks after the police visit to his home, Mathis took K.G. to K.G.'s grandmother's house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Once home, K.G. claimed Mathis had molested him and threatened him with a gun. Specifically, K.G. claimed Mathis had pointed a gun at him; he later retracted that statement but consistently maintained there had been guns inside the house, including a rifle near the front entrance.[2] K.G. also described other threatening behaviors by Mathis and Gott to investigators. He claimed Gott made large dogs lie in front of his bedroom door to prevent him from leaving the house. Gott admitted that she did so. K.G. also claimed Mathis bragged about beating people up in prison.

         K.G. further told investigators that Gott discovered he was actually only 15 years old and that Mathis also found out he was underage from Gott, who had viewed him on a missing persons website. K.G. claimed Mathis made him take the battery out of his cell phone when he learned his actual age. K.G. also described an incident in which Mathis told him to duck down as they drove across the Illinois state line to visit a friend. According to K.G., Mathis feared he would get in trouble for taking K.G. out of state.

         On March 8, officers obtained a warrant to search Mathis's house. The search uncovered a rifle near the front entrance, just as K.G. had described. Mathis admitted K.G. stayed at his house, but he claimed he believed K.G. was 19.

         The State of Iowa charged Mathis with harboring a runaway and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Those charges were later dismissed. The federal government charged Mathis with being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2), and 924(e). In January 2014, Mathis pleaded guilty to the possession charge and was sentenced to 180 months' imprisonment. We affirmed the sentence. United States v. Mathis, 786 F.3d 1068 (8th Cir. 2015).

         The Supreme Court reversed this court's judgment, Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), and we remanded the case to the district court for resentencing. United States v. Mathis, 832 F.3d 876 (8th Cir. 2016). The presentence investigation report (PSR) prepared for Mathis's 2017 resentencing indicated a base offense level of 20, with a four-level enhancement pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) for using or possessing a firearm in connection with another felony offense, i.e., in connection with harboring a runaway. Accounting for acceptance-of-responsibility reductions, the PSR thus calculated a total offense level of 21. Based on a criminal history category of IV and an offense level of 21, the PSR recommended an imprisonment range of 57-71 months.

         At resentencing, the district court found by a preponderance of the evidence that Mathis had committed the crime of harboring a runaway and had used or possessed a firearm to facilitate that crime. The district court thus adopted the PSR's recommended four-level enhancement. The court ...


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