Janesville73°

Man wins appeal in gun case

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Kevin Murphy/Special to the Gazette
November 21, 2009
— Since 1996, the federal government has been prosecuting individuals for possessing a firearm if they previously were convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses, but a Janesville manís case has changed that.

A federal appeals court in Chicago on Wednesday reversed Steven Skoienís conviction, finding the law he was prosecuted under might violate Skoienís constitutional right to bear arms.


The government needs to prove that its interest in preventing domestic violence is related to the ban on firearms possession imposed on those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, according to the opinion.


Skoien, 30, was on probation in 2007, a year after being convicted in Rock County Court of misdemeanor domestic battery. Skoienís probation agent learned his client had obtained a deer hunting license, and a search of Skoienís truck recovered a 12 gauge shotgun.


Skoien admitted the gun was his fatherís and that he had used it that morning to shoot a deer.


Skoien was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and pleaded guilty on the condition he could appeal the conviction on Second Amendment grounds. His two-year prison sentence began in July.


Writing for a three-judge panel, Judge Diane Sykes said the firearms prohibition is too broad.


ďNo one questions the importance of the governmentís interest in protecting against domestic-violence gun injury and death.


ďThe dispute here is about the fit between this important objective and (the) blanket ban on firearms possession by persons who have been convicted of a domestic-violence misdemeanor,Ē Sykes wrote in the 27-page opinion.


Sykes noted that the Second Amendment protects a law-abiding individualís right to possess firearms for self-defense and hunting. Laws that infringe on constitutional rights must do so in the least restrictive manner, which is lacking in the broad, permanent ban Skoien was prosecuted under, according to the opinion.


Skoienís attorney didnít returned calls seeking comment on the case.


Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim OíShea said further appeal of the ruling was under review. He said he expected the government ultimately would prevail.



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