United States v. Urbina-Rodriguez, 2021 WL 401061 (8th Cir. 2021)
Postal inspectors learned of a package that contained a controlled substance addressed to Jose Nunez at Guadalupe Urbina-Rodriguez’s residence. The inspectors and local investigators made a controlled delivery. Urbina-Rodriguez claimed to be Jose and accepted delivery. The investigators served a search warrant a few minutes later. They found Urbina-Rodriguez sitting in a lawn chair, a .22 rifle at his side. The package of methamphetamine was sitting in a chair next to Urbina-Rodriguez. Urbina-Rodriguez’s wife told investigators that two women in a yellow car usually arrived after he received a package of drugs in the mail.
At trial, Urbina-Rodriguez professed affection for his chickens, claiming he needed the rifle to protect the chickens from varmints, such as raccoons and possums. Urbina-Rodriguez’s neighbor testified that he spent a lot of time sitting in the lawn chair watching over his chickens with the rifle. Urbina-Rodriguez claimed he just happened to have the rifle nearby when the investigators showed up.
The jury convicted Urbina-Rodriguez of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
The jury convicted Urbina-Rodriguez of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Urbina-Rodriguez argued that the prosecution had to show he intended to use the rifle to further his drug trafficking. The appellate court disagreed: The jury could conclude Urbina-Rodriguez was motivated to protect his $43,000 worth of methamphetamine, knowing he was previously convicted of drug crimes and that he had the rifle nearby because he anticipated the arrival of the methamphetamine as well as the two women in the yellow car. The appellate court rejected Urbina-Rodriguez’s claim that the only reasonable explanation for having the rifle on hand was his concern for the poultry.
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