In order to convict a defendant of aiding and abetting the use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence or a drug-trafficking crime, does the government need to prove that the defendant intentionally facilitated or encouraged the use of the firearm, or merely that the defendant knew that the principal used a firearm during the crime?
On August 26, 2007, Justus Rosemond and two acquaintances drove to a local park where they planned to sell a pound of marijuana to Ricardo Gonzales and Coby Painter. The deal went awry, and Gonzales and Painter fled with the marijuana without paying. As Rosemond and his cohorts chased after Gonzales and Painter, someone from Rosemond’s car fired a gun at Gonzales. Rosemond was charged with aiding and abetting the use of a firearm in relation to a drug-trafficking crime. The issue before the Court is what level of intent the government must prove. Rosemond argues that he is liable as an accomplice only if he intentionally facilitated or encouraged the use of the firearm. The United States maintains, and the Tenth Circuit ruled, that his knowledge that a cohort used a firearm during the crime is enough to impose accomplice liability. This case raises important concerns regarding the scope of prosecutorial discretion under § 924(c), as well as the burden of proof to establish accomplice liability for aggravating offenses.
Whether the offense of aiding and abetting the use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence or drug-trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1)(A) and 2, requires proof of (i) intentional facilitation or encouragement of the use of the firearm, as held by the First, Second, Third, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits, or (ii) simple knowledge that the principal used a firearm during a crime of violence or drug-trafficking crime in which the defendant also participated, as held by the Sixth, Tenth, and District of Columbia Circuits.
This case revolves around a drug deal gone awry. On August 26, 2007, Vashti Perez arranged to meet and sell a pound of marijuana to Ricardo Gonzales and Coby Painter. See United States v. Rosemond, 695 F.3d 1151, 1152 (10th Cir. 2012). The marijuana belonged to Ronald Joseph and Justus Rosemond, the defendant and Petitioner in this case.
- Barbara Leonard, Courthouse News Service, Justices to Sort Out Gunshots in Drug Deal, (May 28, 2013).
- University of Virginia Law School, Supreme Court to Hear Federal Gun Law Case from UVA Law School Clinic, (May 29, 2013).