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People v. Whisler

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Fourth Division

August 15, 2019

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Curtis Edward Whisler, Defendant-Appellant.

          Fremont County District Court No. 16CR724 Honorable Ramsey Lama, Judge

          Philip J. Weiser, Attorney General, Grant R. Fevurly, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee

          Mallika L. Magner, Alternate Defense Counsel, Crested Butte, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant

          OPINION

          JUDGE J.

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Curtis Edward Whisler, appeals the judgment of conviction entered after the trial court found him guilty of possession of a weapon by a previous offender (POWPO). We affirm. In so doing, we reject Whisler's contention that his testimony that he had passed two background checks when buying two of the guns at issue entitled him to assert the affirmative defense of mistake of law as to all of the weapons.

         I. Background

         ¶ 2 While executing a search warrant of Whisler's home, a police officer found methamphetamine and four guns, all of which Whisler owned. Because Whisler had a prior felony conviction, the People charged him with a single count of POWPO.

         ¶ 3 Before trial, Whisler endorsed the affirmative defense of mistake of law. He also waived his right to a jury.

         ¶ 4 During the bench trial, a police officer testified that he found the following four firearms in Whisler's home while executing a search warrant: a "Charles Day 12-gauge" shotgun, a "Marlin 22 Magnum" rifle, a "410" shotgun, and a "22-caliber Ruger" pistol. The prosecutor introduced the guns into evidence.

         ¶ 5 Whisler testified in his defense. He admitted that he had a prior felony conviction for attempted possession of a controlled substance. And he admitted that he had possessed the four guns. But he also testified that

• he bought the 12-gauge shotgun at a Walmart in Cañon City about ten to twelve years earlier after undergoing a background check;
• he bought the rifle at a Walmart in Salida after undergoing a background check;
• he bought one of the other two guns from a friend who, Whisler "imagine[d]," had "probably" conducted a ...

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