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United States v. Four (4) Firearms and One Hundred Fifty Two Rounds of Assorted Ammunition

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

December 18, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
FOUR (4) FIREARMS AND ONE HUNDRED FIFTY TWO ROUNDS OF ASSORTED AMMUNITION, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          FRANK H. McCARTHY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The Government's Motion for Summary Judgment, [Dkt. 28-SEALED], is before the Court. The matter has been briefed, [Dkt. 28, 32], and is ripe for decision.

         Background[1]

         Following an encounter with a Park Ranger and the Claimant, Derek Braswell, [2] had a mental evaluation at Wagoner Community Hospital and was recommended for in-patient hospitalization for stabilization. The evaluating doctor also signed a Petition for Involuntary Commitment, reciting that Mr. Braswell has a mental illness requiring treatment, that he presented a risk of harm to self or others based on suicidal ideations and having a loaded firearm in his position. [Dkt. 28-4]. The doctor recommended that the court order Mr. Braswell to be involuntarily committed to hospitalization of the least restrictive treatment necessary. Id. In addition, a clinical interview was conducted and two licensed mental health professionals at the hospital signed a Report of Evaluation which recited their opinions that Mr. Braswell was a risk of harm to self and others and further that hospitalization for treatment as an inpatient was required. Id. at pp. 3-4. The Report of Evaluation was appended to the Petition for Involuntary Commitment filed on May 15, 2009.

         On May 15, 2009, the District Court in and for Cherokee County set a hearing for May 15, 2009, on the Petition for Involuntary Commitment. After hearing, the Court entered an Order of Admission to Medical Facility. [Dkt. 28-6]. The Order recited that the hearing was held, that Claimant appeared in person and by counsel, and that the Court examined the staff report and heard evidence and:

finds that the evidence is clear and convincing that said DERRICK BRASWELL, is a person requiring treatment/medication and who should be admitted to a medical facility as a patient; and, that said person is incompetent to consent or refuse treatment that be ordered.

[Dkt. 28-6]. The Court ordered that Mr. Braswell be committed to the custody of the Department of Mental Health/Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health and ordered treatment as deemed necessary by the attending physician. Id. Claimant was discharged from the Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health on May 18, 2009. [Dkt. 28-11]. The discharge summary relates that Mr. Braswell was observed over the weekend to have no difficulties. Id.

         The Government brought this civil forfeiture action to forfeit four firearms and ammunition under 18 U.S.C. § 924(d)(1) which provides in relevant part: “Any firearm or ammunition involved in or used in any knowing violation of [18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4)] . . . shall be subject to seizure and forfeiture . . . .” 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4) provides: “It shall be unlawful for any person who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution . . . to possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition.” Mr. Braswell filed a timely claim to the firearms.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, affidavits and exhibits show that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). A genuine issue of fact exists only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). To survive a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party "must establish that there is a genuine issue of material fact" and "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-86, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1455-56, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). However, the factual record and reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom must be construed in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Gullickson v. Southwest Airlines Pilots' Ass'n., 87 F.3d 1176, 1183 (10th Cir. 1996).

         Analysis

         The Government seeks summary judgment on the basis that the undisputed facts demonstrate that the elements of §922(g)(4) are satisfied, arguing that Claimant has been adjudicated as a “mental defective” as that term is defined in the relevant regulations. 27 C.F.R. § 478.11(a). The Government further argues that Mr. Braswell has been committed to a mental institution.

         Claimant states that many of the facts are not in dispute. However, according to Claimant there are disputed facts about what happened after he was evaluated at Wagoner Community Hospital and whether he was, in fact, committed to a mental health facility. Although Claimant asserts that there are disputed facts, he has not identified any. The Court finds that Claimant has not demonstrated the existence of a genuine dispute as to any material fact. Therefore, summary judgment is appropriate if the Government is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         Claimant asserts that the central issue is whether he was in fact committed to a mental institution. Claimant argues that the statutory procedures were not followed and concludes that the subject Order was not valid and should not be accepted as conclusive evidence that Claimant was committed as that term is used in 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4). The question of whether Claimant has been adjudicated a mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution for purposes of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4) is not ...


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