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United States v. Johnson

United States District Court, D. Kansas

January 13, 2020

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
LARRY D. JOHNSON (01), Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          DANIEL D. CRABTREE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on pro se[1] defendant Larry Johnson's Second Motion to Dismiss Indictment (Doc. 114). Mr. Johnson also made oral arguments at a hearing on January 7, 2020. The government has responded (Doc. 115). For reasons discussed below, the court denies Mr. Johnson's motion.

         I. Background

         The government has charged Mr. Johnson in a three count Second Superseding Indictment. Doc. 70. Count 1 charges Mr. Johnson with violating 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C), accusing him of knowingly and intentionally possessing cocaine with intent to distribute. Count 2 charges Mr. Johnson with violating 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i), accusing him of knowingly possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Count 3 charges Mr. Johnson with violating 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2), accusing him of knowingly possessing a firearm with knowledge he had previously been convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year in prison.

         Mr. Johnson previously has filed a Motion to Dismiss the Indictment (Doc. 58) which the court denied (Doc. 90).

         II. Discussion

         Mr. Johnson asserts that the court lacks jurisdiction over him because he did not consent to be tried under admiralty law. And, because the government cannot “produce the contract or obligation that [proves he has] consented to be tried under maritime law in admiralty court, ” the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction in his case.[2] Doc. 114 at 1-2. Mr. Johnson asserts that “[i]t is never too late to challenge subject matter jurisdiction. It ain't over until the defendant gives up.” Id. at 2. And so, Mr. Johnson asks the court to dismiss the Second Superseding Indictment for lack of jurisdiction, with prejudice.[3]

         The court is not persuaded. This is just another permutation of Mr. Johnson's argument in his earlier Motion to Dismiss. Doc. 58 at 2 (asserting the Second Superseding Indictment was defective because it failed to reference admiralty jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. §§ 7 or 13). Federal district courts do “have original jurisdiction” over “any civil case of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1333. But neither admiralty nor maritime jurisdiction is relevant in this matter. See, e.g., United States v. Reed, No. 4:12CR373 AGF (DDN), 2013 WL 11762139, at *4-5 (E.D. Mo. May 2, 2013) (dismissing defendant's argument that he could be subject to the court's jurisdiction only if he had a contract with the United States as “lacking in merit”); Gilbert v. United States, No. 12-cv-01637-BNB, 2012 WL 3264278, at *2 (D. Colo. Aug. 10, 2012) (dismissing defendant's “challenge to his criminal conviction based upon admiralty jurisdiction” as “an indisputably meritless legal theory” (internal quotation marks omitted)); United States v. Blackburn, No. 09-20133, 2010 WL 5014449, at *2 (D. Kan. Dec. 3, 2010) (Lungstrum, J.) (dismissing defendant's argument that the court lacked jurisdiction over his criminal case because he had not consented to admiralty jurisdiction as “largely nonsensical and lacking in merit”).

         Generally, “admiralty jurisdiction depends upon the nature of the transaction.” Grant Smith-Porter Ship Co. v. Rohde, 257 U.S. 469, 476 (1922). And Mr. Johnson's case does not involve any act or omission allegedly occurring on “navigable waters” or anything connected to navigation or commerce. Id. at 475-76. Mr. Johnson is mistaken about the nature of the court's jurisdiction in his case.

         “The criminal jurisdiction of the courts of the United States is derived exclusively from acts of Congress.” Hudspeth v. Melville, 127 F.2d 373, 375 (10th Cir. 1941) (citing Jones v. United States, 137 U.S. 202 (1890)). Section 3231 of Title 18 of the United States Code explicitly vests federal district courts with original jurisdiction over “all offenses against the laws of the United States.”[4] So, for the court to have jurisdiction over the crimes charged here, Congress must have proscribed the criminal offense “explicitly.” Jerome v. United States, 318 U.S. 101, 105 (1943).

         Here, Mr. Johnson is charged with three counts: (1) possession of “crack” cocaine with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); (2) possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i); and (3) knowing possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2). Doc. 70 at 1-3. Congress has proscribed these offenses explicitly.

         Section 841(a) makes it is “unlawful for any person” to “knowingly or intentionally . . . manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance[.]” 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). And § 924(c)(1)(A) makes it unlawful to possess a firearm during and in relation to any drug trafficking crime “for which the person may be prosecuted in a court of the United States.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). Section 922(g)(1) makes it unlawful for a person who was “convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” to “ship or transport” a firearm “in interstate commerce, ” “possess [a firearm] in or affecting interstate commerce, ” or “receive” any firearm or ammunition that was transported in interstate commerce. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The penalties for these offenses also are set forth in these federal statutes.

         To his credit, Mr. Johnson is correct about one thing: the court must have subject matter jurisdiction over his case. But, here, the Second Superseding Indictment clearly charges Mr. Johnson with violations of federal law. And, thus, the court has jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 3231. Mr. Johnson's contention that the court is exercising admiralty jurisdiction is without merit. So, the court denies Mr. Johnson's Motion to Dismiss Indictment.

         IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED BY THE COURT THAT Mr. Johnson's Motion to Dismiss ...


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