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UNITED STATES v. GLUZMAN

January 16, 1997

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, against RITA GLUZMAN, Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: PARKER

 On April 25, 1996, defendant Rita Gluzman ("Gluzman") was indicted for conspiring to commit interstate domestic violence and for committing interstate domestic violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2261 (1996). *fn1" Gluzman moves to dismiss the indictment on the ground that Congress, when it enacted section 2261, exceeded its authority under the Commerce Clause. See U.S. Const., Art. I, § 8, cl. 3. For the reasons stated below, I find the challenged provision to be a constitutional exercise of Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce. Accordingly, the motion to dismiss is denied.

 BACKGROUND

 The facts as alleged by the government are as follows. *fn2" In the late morning of April 7, 1996, Police Officer Richard Freeman happened upon Vladimir Zelenin dumping the body parts of Yakov Gluzman, Rita Gluzman's husband, into the Passaic River in New York near ECI Techonolgy, Inc. ("ECI"), a company co-owned by Rita and Yakov Gluzman. Upon this inadvertent discovery, Zelenin, after being advised of his constitutional rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1966), confessed that he, with the help of his cousin Rita Gluzman, had murdered Yakov Gluzman.

 According to Zelenin, an employee of ECI, Gluzman approached him approximately one month earlier to enlist him in the murder of her estranged husband. Apparently, Gluzman told Zelenin that she and her husband were undergoing divorce proceedings as a result of which ECI would shut down and Zelenin would lose his job. Zelenin agreed to assist Gluzman in the murder.

 On April 5, 1996, Gluzman allegedly told Zelenin that she wanted to kill her husband the next day, before her husband came to her house to collect some of his belongings. Zelenin stated that on the appointed day, April 6, 1996, he met Gluzman in New Jersey and drove with her to Pearl River, New York, to commit the murder, armed with an ax and a knife. Once in Pearl River, they entered Yakov Gluzman's apartment and awaited his return. When he arrived, Gluzman and Zelenin killed him together. Zelenin then dismembered the body while Gluzman cleaned the apartment of traces of the crime.

 Zelenin admits to placing Yakov Gluzman's body parts into plastic bags, which were then loaded into the trunks of a Ford Taurus registered to ECI and Yakov Gluzman's Nissan Maxima. Gluzman and Zelenin drove the two cars to the ECI parking lot, after which Zelenin drove Gluzman to her home in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. They allegedly agreed that Zelenin would return to ECI and dump the bags filled with Yakov Gluzman's body parts into the nearby Passaic River and then meet later that day at ECI. The discovery of Zelenin by Freeman and Zelenin's subsequent arrest prevented this later rendezvous.

 On April 25, 1996, a grand jury returned a two count indictment against Gluzman, charging her with conspiracy to commit interstate domestic violence and the commission of interstate domestic violence. Specifically, the indictment charges that Gluzman both conspired to, and actually did, travel from New Jersey to New York with the intent to murder her estranged husband, and that, once in New York, she murdered him, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2261.

 Gluzman subsequently brought this motion to dismiss her indictment arguing that section 2261 neither regulates a commercial activity nor contains a requirement that the activity in question be connected to interstate commerce, and therefore its enactment exceeded the authority of Congress to legislate under the Commerce Clause. Gluzman argues that the legislative history of 18 U.S.C. § 2261 does not support Congress' authority to enact the section under the Commerce Clause. She further argues that Congress is limited, under its Commerce powers, to regulating only those activities that have an economic component or that implicate some other attribute of commerce. Consequently, according to Gluzman, the interstate conduct prohibited by section 2261 falls beyond Congress' authority.

 DISCUSSION

 Since one of Gluzman's principle arguments is that section 2261 is unsupported by its legislative history, we begin with an examination of the pertinent Congressional findings. In September 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act of 1993 ("VAWA") as part of the larger Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, P.L. 103-322; see S. Rep. No. 103-138, at 38 (1993). Section 221, Title II of the VAWA (codified as 18 U.S.C. § 2261) contains the challenged provision, which makes it a crime for a person to travel across a state line "with the intent to injure, harass, or intimidate that person's spouse or intimate partner," and "in the course of or as a result of such travel [to] intentionally commit[] a crime of violence causing bodily injury to such spouse or intimate partner." 18 U.S.C. § 2261(a)(1).

 The legislative history of the VAWA contains little express consideration of section 2261 and the impact on interstate commerce of traveling across state lines to commit domestic violence. In its discussion of the VAWA generally, however, Congress noted that "our society pays a heavy price for [domestic] violence: 1 million women a year seek medical attention for injuries caused by violence at the hands of a male partner, children in homes with family violence are 15 times more likely to be abused or neglected than children in peaceful homes; and finally, estimates suggest that we spend $ 5 to $ 10 billion a year on health care, criminal justice, and other social costs of domestic violence." S. Rep. No. 103-138, at 41.

 In describing the purpose of section 2261, Congress did note that it served to fill the "gaps in the legal protection offered to victims of domestic violence . . . [where] States and localities have not addressed the issue sufficiently." S. Rep. No. 103-138, at 43. The Committee on the Judiciary further stated that it believed that the provisions in section 2261 "constitute an appropriate response to the problem[s] of domestic violence which, because of their interstate nature, transcend the abilities of State law enforcement agencies. The committee's legislation does not constitute an 'overfederalization' of crimes. Under title 18 ...


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