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Foreign convictions are not predicate offenses that expose convicted felons to harsher penalties for weapons possession, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. Deciding a case of first impression, the court found that Congress did not intend to include foreign convictions when it prohibited a person “convicted in any court” of a felony punishable by more than a year in prison from possessing a firearm. The 2nd Circuit, in United States v. Ingram, 02-1095, resolved an issue for its own courts that has divided other circuits, and found that a man’s prior felony conviction in Canada does not qualify under the so-called felon-in-possession law that was added to the Gun Control Act of 1968. In 2001, Rohan Ingram was arrested in Plattsburgh, N.Y., by authorities who believed he had entered the United States illegally from Canada. After a large cache of firearms was found in his hotel room, he was charged with conspiracy to export defense articles, conspiracy to travel with intent to engage in the illegal acquisition of firearms, and finally, being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. �� 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). The last charge was based on Ingram’s 1996 conviction in Canada for use of a firearm in an indictable offense. Northern District of New York Judge Lawrence E. Kahn denied Ingram’s motion to dismiss, following the reasoning of the 6th and 4th circuits that � 922(g)(1)’s use of the phrase “in any court” includes foreign convictions. Ingram was convicted on all three charges before a jury in 2001. His motion for a judgment of acquittal was rejected last year, and he was sentenced to six years and four months in prison. At the 2nd Circuit, Judge Robert Katzmann said that in contrast to the 6th, 4th and 3rd circuits, the 10th Circuit has “invoked the rule of lenity” to conclude that the phrase “in any court” is “sufficiently ambiguous that foreign convictions cannot serve as predicate offenses for sentencing enhancements” under � 924(e). The 10th Circuit, he said, found that the inclusion of foreign convictions would cause the “peculiar result” of having fewer domestic crimes covered than foreign crimes. Such a broad definition might even make business crimes predicate offenses for a gun control statute, he said. In defining the term “crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year,” Congress specifically excluded convictions for antitrust violations, unfair trade practices, restraints of trade and other business practices. “Like the Tenth Circuit, we do not understand the logic whereby a person convicted of an antitrust violation in a foreign country would not be allowed to possess a firearm, yet a person convicted of the same antitrust violation in the United States would be allowed to possess a firearm,” Judge Katzmann said. Moreover, he said, while the phrase “in any court” is ambiguous, the legislative history makes the intent of Congress reasonably clear. “In sum, two reliable portions of the Gun Control Act’s legislative history — the Senate Report and the Conference Report — lead us to conclude that Congress did not intend foreign convictions to serve as a predicate offense for Section 922(g)(1),” he said. “Accordingly, we interpret Sec. 922(g)(1)’s ambiguous ‘convicted in any court’ language as only including convictions attained in domestic courts and not extending to Ingram’s Canadian conviction.” In closing, Katzmann said that, in reaching the decision, “we note that Congress may seek to enact gun control legislation that criminalizes firearm possession by individuals with foreign felony convictions,” but, “if Congress were to do so, however, it would need to speak more clearly that it has in Sec. 922(g)(1).” Judges Joseph M. McLaughlin and Pierre Leval joined in the decision. Philip L. Weinstein of the Legal Aid Society’s Federal Defender Division represented Ingram. Assistant U.S. Attorneys David M. Grable and William C. Pericak and Senior Litigation Counsel Barbara D. Cottrell represented the government.

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