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Criminal Practice – Gun, Threats Supported Carjacking Conviction

U.S. v. Robinson (Lawyers Weekly No. 001-088-17, 9 pp.) (Wilkinson, J.) No. 15-4741, April 25, 2017; USDC at Baltimore, Md. (Motz, J.) 4th Cir.

Holding: The 4th Circuit upholds defendant’s conviction for carjacking based on his participation, with two companions, in taking car keys at gunpoint from a woman who was in active labor, and driving away, after attempting to force her to unlock her apartment after her apartment key fell off her key ring.

Defendant contends his threats to the woman were empty and he would not have harmed her even if she had resisted his taking the car key. The government counters with evidence that defendant was carrying a loaded gun pointed at the woman and that he verbally threatened her by asking “Do you want to die?” Because there is evidence from which a rational fact finder would conclude that defendant’s threats were all too real, we cannot reverse the verdict.

Defendant also argues that there is no evidence that he possessed the requisite intent at the moment he grabbed the car keys out of the woman’s hand. Defendant attempts to characterize his carjacking as an “afterthought” to the planned robbery of the woman’s apartment. But whether or not he originally planned to steal the car, defendant grabbed the woman’s car keys while holding a loaded gun and after threatening her life. There is plenty of evidence of an intent to cause serious harm when he took control of the car. Even if this were a closer case, the question of defendant’s intent at the moment he stole the car is a question of fact for the jury.

We also reject defendant’s challenge to the indictment as duplicitous because he was charged in one count for violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) both with the actual possession of the handgun he was carrying and with the constructive possession of the shotgun that his companion was carrying. There was no error at all in the indictment, let alone error that was clear or obvious.

Convictions affirmed.

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