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Houston a felon, judge declares

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By Damon Lawrence

U.S. Magistrate C. Clifford Shirley Jr. is recommending that Rocky Houston’s motion to dismiss his federal indictment be denied.
Houston faces 14 counts of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. The alleged crimes occurred between Oct. 11, 2012 and Jan. 11, 2013.  
“The defendant contends that his Roane County judgment of conviction for felony evading arrest was not a final judgment prior to Feb. 11, 2013, because his direct appeal of that judgment was still pending,” Shirley wrote in a report and recommendation filed last Thursday.
“Relying on Tennessee case law, he argues that a criminal judgment is not final and, therefore, not a ‘conviction,’ until all appeals have been exhausted.”
Shirley doesn’t share those views.
“The court finds that the defendant’s Roane County judgment of conviction, which sets forth the jury’s verdict and his sentence, is a ‘conviction’ under Tennessee law for the purpose of establishing the consequence of his federal firearms disability,” Shirley said.
“The court also notes that under Tennessee law, the defendant could have been impeached with evidence of his Roane County conviction in any court following the July 2010 judgment, even if and while an appeal was pending.”
A jury found Houston guilty of felony evading arrest in Roane County Criminal Court on April 1, 2010.
The judgment was entered in July of that year. Houston contested the conviction, but it was upheld by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, which issued an opinion in the case on Feb. 11, 2013.  
“The defendant objects that his Roane County judgment of conviction was not a ‘final judgment’ at the time of the conduct alleged in the indictment because he was pursuing a direct appeal,” Shirley said.
“The court observes that the defendant could not have appealed the judgment of conviction were it not a final judgment.”
In the report and recommendation, Shirley indicates Houston would still be in trouble, even if the state appeals court had overturned his conviction.
“The 6th Circuit has held that it is the defendant’s status as a felon on the day he possessed firearms that determines whether he or she is a prohibited person, not whether the predicate felony conviction is subsequently invalidated,” Shirley said.
The report and recommendation is another blow for Houston, who faces up to 140 years in prison if convicted on the firearm charges.