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United States of America v. Kirby Gray

April 28, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
APPELLEE,
v.
KIRBY GRAY, KRYSTAL MACK,
DEFENDANTS, MARVIN WELLS, STEPHEN RHODES, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from judgments of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Weinstein, J.), entered on April 1, 2010, following a jury trial, convicting Defendant-Appellant Marvin Wells of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice, two counts of attempted intimidation and corrupt persuasion, and making a false statement, and convicting DefendantAppellant Stephen Rhodes of obstruction of justice and making a false statement.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Katzmann, Circuit Judge:

10-1266-cr (L)

US v. Wells & Rhodes

Submitted: February 25, 2011

Before : KEARSE, SACK, KATZMANN, Circuit Judges.

We hold that an internal investigation by a privately owned prison that houses federal prisoners of an allegation of excessive force involves a "matter within the jurisdiction" of the Department of Justice for purposes of 18 U.S.C. § 1519. For the reasons stated below and in the accompanying summary order, the judgments of the district court are AFFIRMED.

Defendants-Appellants Marvin Wells and Stephen Rhodes (collectively, the "defendants") appeal from judgments of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Weinstein, J.), entered on April 1, 2010, following a jury trial, convicting Wells of conspiracy to obstruct justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; obstruction of justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1519; two counts of attempted intimidation and corrupt persuasion, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(3); and making a false statement, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2); and convicting Rhodes of obstruction of justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1519; and making a false statement, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2). This appeal calls upon us to decide whether an internal investigation by a privately owned prison that houses federal prisoners of an allegation of excessive force involves a "matter within the jurisdiction" of the Department of Justice ("DOJ") for purposes of 18 U.S.C. § 1519.*fn1 As set forth below, we hold that it does, and accordingly affirm Wells's and Rhodes's convictions on the obstruction-of-justice counts. For the reasons stated herein and in the accompanying summary order, the judgments of the district court are AFFIRMED.

BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are largely undisputed. The evidence at trial revealed that, on the morning of April 17, 2007, Rex Eguridu, a federal inmate housed at Queens Private Correctional Facility ("QPCF"),*fn2 called out to Krystal Mack, a QPCF corrections officer ("CO"): "Hello baby. You look beautiful today." App'x 219. Wells, a supervising lieutenant at QPCF, approached Eguridu and directed Rhodes, a CO, to handcuff Eguridu. When Eguridu apologized for his remark, Wells told him "to keep [his] mouth shut." Id. at 220. Wells thereafter instructed Rhodes and Kirby Gray, another CO, to take Eguridu to a shower room and remove his handcuffs.

Once in the shower room, Wells directed Eguridu to remove his clothes. After Eguridu was strip-searched, Wells angrily questioned Eguridu why he would call an officer "baby," and repeatedly struck Eguridu in the chest and throat. Each blow caused Eguridu's head to strike against the concrete wall of the shower room. Gray, Rhodes, and Hananiah Day, another CO, were present in the shower room and witnessed the event. Leslie Andrews, another CO, saw Wells strike Eguridu and heard Eguridu's head "thump" against the wall repeatedly as she passed by the shower room.

After the attack concluded, Wells ordered Eguridu to get onto his knees and apologize. Eguridu complied, and Wells instructed Gray and Rhodes to take Eguridu back to his cell. As they were leaving, Wells told Eguridu, "if I hear one word about this I'll fuckin' kill you. We'll come down there, I'll drag you out and I'll kill you." Id. at 344.

Following the assault, Eguridu felt pain in his chest and throat. A medical examination revealed that Eguridu had a deviation of the throat with swelling of his neck, difficulty moving his neck and shoulders, and a bruise on his sternum. Two days later, he was transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

Almost immediately thereafter, QPCF, a privately owned detention center operated by The GEO Group, initiated an investigation of the incident. QPCF's administrative lieutenant, William Robinson, directed the officers to write reports to QPCF describing what they had observed. Wells wrote one report, Rhodes and Gray each wrote two reports, and Mack wrote four reports. Each of those reports stated, in sum and substance, that no force had been used against Eguridu and no assault had taken place.

Andrews testified that before she wrote her first report, Wells told her: "I should just put down I don't know what happened. I didn't see anything." Id. at 267. Similarly, Mack advised Andrews: "we all have to stick together. We have to say the same thing. This is how we do it. You are the weakest link." Id. at 271. Andrews, who wrote five separate reports of the incident, testified that she was not truthful in her first four reports because she was afraid that other officers would ...


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