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United States v. Samia

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 13, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ADAM SAMIA and CARL DAVID STILLWELL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          LAURA TAYLOR SWAIN United States District Judge.

         On December 13, 2016, this Court issued an Opinion and Order granting, in part, Defendants' motion to dismiss the S9 Superseding Indictment (the “Indictment”). (Docket entry no. 376 (the “December Opinion”).) The Government now seeks reconsideration of the aspect of the December Opinion that granted Defendants' motion to dismiss Counts One and Two of the Indictment, which charged a conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and murder-for-hire, respectively, in violation of Section 1958(a) of Title 18 of the United States Code. U.S. v. Samia, 2016 WL 7223410, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 13, 2016) (Swain, J.). The Court has considered the submissions of both parties carefully and, for the reasons that follow, grants the Government's motion for reconsideration and, on reconsideration, reinstates Counts One and Two of the Indictment.

         Background

         The Court assumes the parties' familiarity with the relevant facts of this case, which are summarized in the December Opinion, and this memorandum opinion therefore sets forth only the factual and procedural history relevant to the disposition of the instant motion.

         Counts One and Two of the Indictment charged both Defendants with violations of 18 U.S.C. section 1958(a), which requires, in relevant part, that Defendants have used a facility of interstate or foreign commerce “with intent that a murder be committed in violation of the laws of any State or the United States.” The Indictment alleges that the Defendants traveled in foreign commerce in connection with the murder of Catherine Lee, a non-U.S. national, in the Phillippines. See Samia, 2016 WL 7223410, at *1.

         On August 19, 2016, Defendant Stillwell moved, inter alia, to dismiss Counts One and Two of the Indictment. (Docket entry no. 345.) In his memorandum of law in support of the motion, Stillwell argued that Section 1958 should not be read to have extraterritorial effect (i.e, application in connection with a murder that allegedly took place outside of the United States). In the course of making that argument, which the motion characterized as a “jurisdictional” challenge, Stillwell noted that “[d]espite Section 1958's reference to a murder in violation of any of the laws of the United States, the Government has identified no other homicide statute to close this jurisdictional loophole.” (Docket entry no. 346, Mem. of Law in Support of Motion to Dismiss, p. 13 n. 8.) Defendant Samia later joined the motion. In response, the Government asserted that the Indictment sufficiently alleged violations of Section 1958 because it alleged that Defendants possessed “the intent to commit a murder in violation of Section 956, ” which the Government described as “the object murder offense.” (Docket entry no. 349, Mem. of Law in Opposition, p. 15.)

         At oral argument on the motion to dismiss, the Court asked the Government to clarify its position on this issue:

THE COURT: What is the murder prohibitive statute that the government contends the defendants formed an intent to violate while in the United States?
MR. LOCKARD: Yes, your Honor. That is Count Three. That is the murder in violation of Section 956.
THE COURT: 956 by its terms doesn't prohibit murder. It criminalizes a conspiracy to commit murder. . . .
MR. LOCKARD: So, again, I think if you look at Section 1958, this is all about the intent of the parties at the time that they used the facilities of interstate commerce or at the time when they traveled in interstate commerce. . . . So the fact that 956 also criminalizes the conspiracy to commit a foreign murder I think is pretty consonant with what 1958 says, which is when you travel with that intent, right, the murder itself is inchoate at the time of the travel or at the time the facilities are used. So if there is that travel with that intent, which also is at the same time that the 956 violation was occurring, because this is a conspiracy that's been formed to commit that murder, then the intent of the defendants, right, has triggered 956. . . .
THE COURT: Is there no significance in the fact that in 1958(a) Congress specifically used the words [“]murder be committed in violation of the laws of the United States[“], as opposed to [“]a murder-related crime be committed in violation of the laws of the United States[“] or [“]with intent that a crime that would be a murder under the laws of the United States were it committed in the United States be committed there[“]. . . .
MR. LOCKARD: [Section 956] is a conspiracy statute, but it is a murder conspiracy statute, it is a kidnapping conspiracy statute, which I think is reflective of the fact that the statute, again, like 1958, is targeting the ...

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