Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sex-Related SR Conditions Vacated in Threats Case

US v. Armel: Armel called a local FBI office in Virginia, claiming that the Bureau tried to kill him and owed him money. He called back shortly thereafter and claimed that if he didn't get "paid" the people in the office were "gonna' lose you're [sic] genitalia," that "God promised me he would curse you," and that if "[y]ou come and try to pull on me . . . [y]ou will die." He punctuated the final phone call (of three total) with a warning to "[g]et it straight or fucking die!" Armel was arrested and charged with threatening federal officials under 18 USC 115(a)(1)(B). After being convicted at a bench trial, Armel was sentenced to prison and a term of supervised release term that included special conditions involving pornography, contact with children, and mandated sex offender testing.

Armel appealed both his conviction and his sentence to the Fourth Circuit, which affirmed the conviction but vacated the special conditions of supervised release (Armel's term of imprisonment had ended by the time the case was decided).

On the conviction, the court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to support Armel's conviction, both because the statements at issue were true threats and they were directed to a small group of specific people (the employees in one particular FBI office) even if they were not directed at specific named individuals.

With regards to the supervised release conditions, the court found that, while the district court noted that they were "very rigid," it did not provide any basis for why such conditions were necessary in this case, in light of 3553(a). The conditions were not asked for by the Government, which did not argue that they were appropriate on appeal. Lacking any support in the record, the conditions were vacated and the case remanded for resentencing.

Congrats to the Defender office in the Eastern District of Virginia on the win!

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