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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:On Feb. 17, 1999, Mississippi authorities indicted Danny Hope on one count of aggravated assault and one count of armed robbery. During trial, the state court judge dismissed the aggravated assault charge and declared a mistrial on the armed robbery charge. According to a transcript of the proceedings, on Aug. 24, 1999, Hope pleaded guilty under the same case number to strong-arm robbery, a lesser included offense which was also a felony in Mississippi. Authorities advised Hope that under federal law, his plea of guilty made it a crime for him to possess a firearm. For unknown reasons, however, the state court judge signed an official order, under the same style and case number, indicating that Hope had pled guilty to aggravated assault instead of strong-arm robbery. The record showed no objection by Hope to this order. The state trial court sentenced Hope to five years of imprisonment, three and one-half years of which were suspended. The state judge then released Hope on the basis of time already served. Sometime after his release from jail, Hope embarked upon a crime spree that involved the armed robbery of a convenience store near Jackson, Miss., on Dec. 15, 2003. The next day, police stopped Hope and his accomplice from that robbery for a traffic violation. When the policeman determined that Hope’s license was suspended and attempted to detain him, Hope fled. Following a high-speed automobile chase, Hope crashed the car and was arrested. A Walther brand pistol was found underneath a seat in the car. On Feb. 8, 2005, authorities indicted Hope on two counts of possessing a firearm after having been convicted of a felony, a violation of 18 U.S.C. �922(g)(1). One count covered Dec. 15, 2003, the day of the convenience store robbery, and the other Dec. 16, 2003, the day that police apprehended Hope. Each count alleged that Hope had been convicted “on or about August 24, 2000, in the Circuit Court of Hinds County, Mississippi, cause number 99-0-911, of the crime of aggravated assault.” This allegation was based on the certified copy of the Hinds County Circuit Court judgment order. At trial, the government was required to prove: 1. that Hope possessed a firearm in interstate commerce; and 2. that he had a previous felony conviction. It introduced the certified Mississippi judgment to satisfy the second element, and Hope’s attorney did not object. Hope’s trial counsel apparently said little or nothing about this element of the crime and instead focused his defense on the possession element. Hope himself apparently commented sometime during the trial that he had not pleaded guilty to the crime of aggravated assault; still, he never asserted that he had not pleaded guilty to a felony in the particular proceeding reflected in the certified judgment. A post-verdict motion for acquittal or new trial was denied on Aug. 29, 2005. After trial, Hope’s new appellate counsel determined that the certified judgment on which the indictment and conviction relied was contrary to a transcript of state court proceedings of the guilty plea. The transcript indicated that Hope had entered a guilty plea to strong-arm robbery, but, as noted, the certified judgment arising out of the same proceedings stated that Hope had been convicted of aggravated assault. No one disputes that both the transcript and the certified judgment introduced at trial reflect the same plea in the same case and that both crimes are felonies. Thus, on Oct. 28, 2005, Hope filed a second motion for a new trial and later for a judgment of acquittal under Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 29 and 33, based on the alleged discovery of new evidence, i.e., the transcript. A hearing was held before the district court on Dec. 14, 2005, at which the state court transcript was introduced for the first time. The district court reasoned that the evidence was insufficient to establish guilt, because the government had proved the felony of aggravated assault, which was shown to be inaccurate by the transcript introduced in the post-trial hearing. As a result, the district court entered a judgment of acquittal under Rule 29. The government timely appealed. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. A motion for judgment of acquittal, the court stated, challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to convict. The court reviewed the motion for a judgment of acquittal de novo. Hope argued that based on the transcript of the Mississippi proceeding, insufficient evidence supported his conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court disagreed. First, the court stated, the indictment alleged that Hope had been convicted of a qualifying felony and it listed the particular cause number and date of his conviction, which Hope did not dispute. There is no variance, the court stated, between the evidence introduced and the crime charged in the indictment. The only variance, the court stated, existed between the official record of the state trial and the state transcript introduced in federal post-trial proceedings. Second, the court stated, the evidence that the government introduced at trial, namely the official Mississippi judgment order, supported the indictment in every particular. Hope’s trial counsel, the court stated, did not object to the introduction of this evidence, nor did he otherwise contest the fact that Hope had been convicted of a qualifying felony. Finally, the court stated, it is clear that, irrespective of whether the crime was denominated as aggravated assault or strong-arm robbery, Hope was in fact convicted of a qualifying felony � specifically in the same case and case number that was reflected in both the certified judgment and the indictment. Thus, the court concluded that the only question in reviewing the district court’s grant of the Rule 29 motion was whether the evidence introduced at trial and upon which the jury based its verdict was sufficient to support the crime charged in the indictment. A federal crime, the court stated, was correctly charged in the indictment and the government proved the crime charged with competent evidence: an unobjected-to, certified state court judgment. Such evidence, the court stated, was sufficient to support the crime charged in the indictment and the guilty verdict returned ny the jury based on that evidence. Thus, the court held that the district court erred in entering a judgment of acquittal in response to Hope’s oral Rule 29 motion. OPINION:Jolly, J.; Jones, C.J., and Jolly and Stewart, J.J.

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