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United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
March 17, 2022, Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California; November 22, 2022, Filed
W. Fletcher, Circuit Judge:
On August 24, 2014, defendant Forest M. Kirst piloted a small plane in Alaska on a charter [*5] flight carrying three paying passengers. The plane crashed as Kirst attempted to fly over Atigun Pass in the Brooks Range. One of the passengers died a month later from injuries sustained in the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") investigated the crash, and the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") revoked Kirst's airman certificate. During both the investigation and Kirst's appeal of the revocation of his airman certificate, Kirst claimed that the plane was climbing through 5,500 to 5,700 feet with a target altitude of 6,000 feet as it approached the pass. GPS data showed that the plane was flying at an altitude more than 1,000 feet lower than what Kirst claimed.
The government filed three criminal charges against Kirst. Counts One and Two charged Kirst with obstructing a pending "proceeding," in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1505. The proceeding in Count One was the NTSB investigation. The proceeding in Count Two was the appeal before the NTSB of the FAA's revocation of his airman certificate. Count Three charged Kirst with piloting an aircraft without a valid airman certificate, in violation of 49 U.S.C. § 46306(b)(7). A jury returned guilty verdicts on Counts One and Two and an acquittal on Count Three. [*6] The district court sentenced Kirst to 12 months and 1 day in prison on Counts One and Two, to run concurrently; 3 years of supervised release; and a $5,000 fine.
On appeal, Kirst challenges his conviction on Count One, arguing that the NTSB investigation was not a "proceeding" within the meaning of § 1505. Further, Kirst challenges his convictions on both Counts One and Two, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support the convictions and that a jury instruction was improper. Finally, Kirst challenges the $5,000 fine, arguing that he is unable to pay it.
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2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 32220 *; 54 F.4th 610
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. FOREST MITCHELL KIRST, Defendant-Appellant.
Prior History: [*1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Alaska. D.C. Nos. 3:17-cr-00180-RRB-DMS-1, 3:17-cr-00180-RRB-DMS. Ralph R. Beistline, District Judge, Presiding.
plane, feet, obstruct, crash, indictment, certificate, flight, administer the law, investigations, altitude, flying, propeller, revocation, district court, climbing, Counts, target, plain error, passengers, subpoenas, proceedings, convicted, piloting, blade, interview, controls, fine, pending proceedings, revoke, sentence
Transportation Law, US National Transportation Safety Board, Hearings & Orders, Judicial Review, Air & Space Transportation, Personnel, Pilots, Maintenance & Safety, Business & Corporate Compliance, Alcohol & Drug Testing, US Federal Aviation Administration, Authorities & Powers, Notices & Orders, Registration, Criminal Law & Procedure, Appeals, Reviewability, Forfeitures, Evidence, Weight & Sufficiency, Trials, Motions for Acquittal, Preservation for Review, Guilty Pleas, Requirements, Standards of Review, Plain Error, Definition of Plain Error, Criminal Offenses, Obstruction of Administration of Justice, Elements, Administrative Law, Scope of Authority, Methods of Investigation, Subpoenas, De Novo Review, Sufficiency of Evidence, Inferences & Presumptions, Inferences, Substantial Evidence, Admissibility, Circumstantial & Direct Evidence, Types of Evidence, Circumstantial Evidence, Abuse of Discretion, Jury Instructions, Jury Instructions, Particular Instructions, Elements of Offense, Clear Error Review