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United States v. Gatson

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 21, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
DANIEL GATSON

          OPINION

          WILLIAM J. MARTINI. U.S.D.J.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon Defendant Daniel Gatson's Motion for Return of Seized Property. Def .s Mot., ECF 212. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is DENIED.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On November 2, 2015, following a three-week trial, a jury found Gatson guilty of twelve counts related to interstate transportation of stolen property. ECF No. 120-133.

         On June 30, 2016, Gatson was sentenced to 300 months incarceration and ordered to make full restitution in the amount of $3, 597, 081.00. ECF No. 159. On the same date, the Court issued a final order of forfeiture of property as to Gatson that included a list of 101 items, including: (1) jewelry recovered from Gatson's hotel room on the day of his arrest; (2) various jewelry and watches recovered from his residence in Georgia; (3) various autographed NBA jerseys recovered from his residence in Georgia; (4) quantities of United States and foreign currency recovered from his New York hotel room and his residence in North Bergen, New Jersey; (5) a fraudulent identification card in the name of Craig Streets recovered from his New York hotel room. ECF No. 160.

         On July 13, 2016, Gatson provided notice of appeal and on August 9, 2018, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion and order affirming Gatson's conviction and sentence. ECF No. 206, 209. The Supreme Court of the United States denied Gatson's petition for writ of certiorari on October 7, 2019. Gatson v. United States. No. 18-9700, 2019 WL 4922309, at *1 (U.S. Oct. 7, 2019).

         II. MOTION FOR RETURN OF PROPERTY

         A. Property Subject to Forfeiture

         "It is well settled that the government is permitted to seize evidence for use in investigation and trial, but that such property must be returned once criminal proceedings have concluded, unless it is contraband or subject to forfeiture." United States v. Chambers, 192 F.3d 374, 376 (3d Cir. 1999). Thus, under Fed. R. Crim. P. 41(g), the district court has jurisdiction over a motion for return of property made after the termination of criminal proceedings. Id.; see also Chambers, 192 F.3d at 376. The heavy evidentiary burden for a Rule 41(g) motion lies with the government to demonstrate it has a legitimate reason to retain the seized property. Id. (citing Chambers, 192 F.3d at 377).

         Gatson requests that all of the seized items described in Exhibits A, B, and C of his motion be returned to him immediately. Def s Mot. 3. Exhibits A, B, and C are inventories from searches of his residence in Stone Mountain, Georgia; his residence in North Bergen, New Jersey; and a Marriott hotel room in Uniondale, New York, respectively. Id. at 9-21. Gatson argues that his seized property should be returned because it was not used in his criminal trial as evidence and that the government did not prove that the seized items were connected to criminal activity. Def.'s Mot. 4-6.

         When property is forfeited criminally, the forfeiture is part of the defendant's sentence and may only be challenged on direct appeal. See United States v. Noyes, 557 Fed.Appx. 125, 126-28 (3d Cir. 2014); Winkelman v. United States, 494 Fed.Appx. 217, 220 (3d Cir. 2012) (defendant should have raised his challenge to the forfeiture judgment in his direct appeal, not under Rule 41(g) and to obtain interest in forfeited property, defendant must first succeed in invalidating his judgment); United States v. Bernard, 537 Fed.Appx. 72, 74 (3d Cir. 2013) (district court has no jurisdiction to consider Rule 41(g) motion for return of property once it has been forfeited in a criminal case). To the extent Gatson's motion pursuant to Rule 41(g) is a challenge to this Court's June 30, 2016 final order of forfeiture, it is an improper attempt to challenge a component of his sentence. Id. (citing Young v. United States, 489 F.3d 313, 315 (7th Cir. 2007)). Consequently, to the extent items listed on the relevant search inventories-Exhibits A, B, and C-overlap with the list of 101 items listed in this Court's forfeiture order, Defendant's motion for return of property pursuant to Rule 41(g) is denied.

         B. Property That Is Contraband

         A Rule 41(g) motion for the return of seized property may be denied if the property is "derivative contraband" that the defendant may not possess. See United States v. Uribe-Londono, 238 Fed.Appx. 628, 629 (1st Cir. 2007); United States v. Cam, 2017 WL 8288088 (D. Nev. Dec. 11, 2017) (denying motion for the return of contraband firearms). As a convicted felon, Gatson is prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition. Accordingly, the firearms and ammunition recovered from Gatson's resident in Georgia is contraband and cannot be returned to him.

         C. Currency to be Credited ...


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