BOSTON — A federal appeals court has thrown out the conviction of an Auburn man on a gun charge.

Willie R. Minor, 62, was convicted in U.S. District Court in Portland in 2017 for having a gun after he had pleaded guilty in 2010 in state court to a misdemeanor assault charge involving his then-wife.

Willie Minor of Auburn appears in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn in 2019 when he was acquitted by a jury on state charges of sexual assault, sex trafficking and assault. His conviction on a federal gun charge was recently overturned. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file photo

While the case was pending on appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that changed what the government is required to prove in certain federal firearm possession cases. The parties in this case agreed to have the original conviction vacated and the case retried.

In 2020, Minor again went to trial on the gun charge in U.S. District Court in Maine where he was again convicted of being a prohibited person with a firearm, after a two-day trial. The charge was punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

At that trial, because of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, prosecutors had been required to prove not only that Minor had been convicted of assaulting his wife, but also that he knew he had been convicted of that crime and had been aware of certain details of the conviction.

Prosecutors had argued at trial that Minor possessed a .38-caliber pistol after he had been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence assault.


In a 2016 interview with the Auburn Police Department in Maine, Minor had admitted he’d had a gun and told police he kept it in his apartment. Police later searched his apartment after getting a warrant and found the gun Minor had described, according to federal prosecutors.

In the March 24 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, Judge William J. Kayatta Jr. wrote in an opinion from the panel of judges that prosecutors were required to prove at trial not only that Minor knew he had a gun, but that “he knew he belonged to the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a firearm.”

Kayatta went on to write that Minor had pleaded no contest in 2010 to a charge of simple assault in state law after having refused to enter a plea to a charge of domestic violence assault.

“The panel vacated Minor’s conviction because ‘the jury was allowed to convict (him) of knowingly violating (the law) without finding that he knew that his assault conviction placed him in the category of persons convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,'” Kayatta wrote.

At Minor’s 2020 trial, he described his understanding of his 2010 conviction as a “simple assault” and not “a domestic” because that would have prohibited him from having guns, Kayatta wrote.

Minor testified that he believed he could have a gun because of the way his 2010 plea had been structured, Kayatta wrote.

In response to the decision, federal prosecutors could dismiss the charge against Minor, take the case to trial for a third time of appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2019, before his second federal trial on the gun charge, Minor was acquitted by a jury on state charges of sexual assault, sex trafficking and assault in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn.

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