Appeals from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. No. CR92-13-MAC-WDO), Wilbur D. Owens, Jr., Chief Judge.
Before Anderson and Birch, Circuit Judges, and Atkins,*fn* Senior District Judge.
ATKINS, Senior District Judge:
Defendant-Appellant Monte Dale Thompson ("Thompson") appeals his conviction for various firearms offenses. Thompson stipulated to possessing firearms, to being a convicted felon and to signing the firearms transaction records which falsely stated that he was not a convicted felon, all the facts necessary to convict him of the crimes charged.
Thompson's appeal stems from his understanding that he had been granted immunity for these crimes. Thompson appeals on three grounds: (1) the district court erred in denying Thompson's motion to dismiss the indictment because Thompson had been granted immunity from prosecution; (2) the district court erred in precluding Thompson from presenting his defense of entrapment by estoppel by granting the government's motion in limine to exclude any reference to the alleged grant of immunity; and, (3) the district court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on Thompson's defense of entrapment by estoppel.
We hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to dismiss. However, the district court erred when it granted the government's motion in limine and effectively prohibited Thompson from presenting his theory of defense. Therefore, we affirm in part, reverse in part and remand for new trial.
Thompson was indicted on January 30, 1992. He was charged with five (5) counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 922(g)(1), in connection with Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(e). Thompson was also charged with two (2) counts of making a false and fictitious statement to a firearms dealer, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 922 (a)(6), in connection with Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(a). All of the alleged incidents for which Thompson was charged occurred in the years 1987 through 1989.
Thompson filed a motion to dismiss the indictment on April 1, 1992.*fn1 The basis of the motion was an alleged oral grant of immunity to Thompson by Assistant United States Attorney ("AUSA") Miriam Duke in exchange for his testimony in other criminal cases. In support of the motion, Thompson alleged that the AUSA had possessed the information necessary to indict him for the offenses charged here for some time. However, the AUSA chose not to bring the information to the grand jury until Thompson's testimony in other cases was no longer useful.
On April 29, 1992, in response to the motion, the government proffered the facts surrounding Thompson's testimony before a federal grand jury in April, 1989, in the case of United States v. Milton Dobbin Evans, Crim. No. 89-42-MAC(WDO). Thompson offered no evidence in support of his motion, other than the vague allegations noted above. The district court summarily denied Thompson's motion to dismiss the indictment on May 15, 1992.
On February 8, 1993, the government filed a motion in limine seeking to prohibit the defense from presenting any evidence of the reason for Thompson's possession of the firearms, including any reference to Thompson's alleged grant of immunity. The basis for the motion was relevance; the government argued that since § 922 involves a strict liability offense, the reason for Thompson's possession was irrelevant.
In response to the motion in limine, Thompson asserted his intention to present the defense of entrapment by estoppel.*fn2 This defense consisted, basically, of allegations that Thompson had been led to believe by law enforcement officers that he was allowed to possess firearms, or at least would not be prosecuted for possessing them. The district court granted the government's motion in limine at a pre-trial conference on February 10, 1993, effectively prohibiting Thompson from presenting his defense of entrapment by estoppel.
On February 22, 1993, Thompson reasserted his objection to the government's motion in limine and urged the district court to admit evidence of entrapment by estoppel. After the selection of the jury, the district court permitted Thompson to make a factual proffer, in camera, to support his defense. Thompson testified at length under oath, describing that he had been granted immunity from prosecution of the offenses charged in exchange for his assistance in various investigations of crimes committed by others. After listening to Thompson's testimony, and considering the law cited in the parties' briefs on the issue, the district court denied Thompson's request to raise the defense of entrapment by estoppel and prohibited him from presenting any evidence related to that defense.
Thompson was tried by a jury on the same day the district court refused his request to assert the defense of entrapment by estoppel. Thompson stipulated to his possession of the firearms, to his prior convictions and to signing the firearms transaction records--all the facts necessary to convict Thompson of the charged violations. Thompson was convicted of four of the possession violations; the fifth was dismissed by the government. Thompson was also convicted of the two counts of making a false statement to a firearms dealer.
Subsequent to his conviction, Thompson filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or in the alternative, for a new trial, based on the judge's refusal to allow the presentation of the entrapment by estoppel defense. The motion was denied on March 24, ...