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United States v. Bruce

April 28, 2005

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
WILLIAM R. BRUCE, III, APPELLANT



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Criminal No. 00-cr-00281) District Judge: Hon. Malcolm Muir

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

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued May 27, 2004

BEFORE: RENDELL and COWEN, Circuit Judges and SCHWARZER *fn1, District Judge

OPINION

William R. Bruce, III, and a co-defendant, John Cioffi Mussare, were charged in an indictment with various drug and extortion crimes. They were convicted of one count of conspiring to distribute marijuana, as well as two counts of using extortionate means to collect an extension of credit in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 894. Bruce appeals, raising constitutional and sufficiency of the evidence challenges to the extortion convictions. *fn2 We will affirm.

I.

On January 21, 2000, Clinton James Taylor, Bruce, and Mussare met at an all-night party in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. At some point during the evening, Bruce and Mussare expressed an interest in obtaining marijuana, and Taylor indicated that his roommate, Jim Kane, might have some. On Saturday, January 22, Bruce and Mussare accompanied Taylor to his apartment.

Kane did not have any marijuana, but either Taylor or Kane suggested that they could get some if Bruce and Mussare provided the money. Bruce then gave Kane $115 for the purpose of buying drugs.

Kane gave the money to Taylor, who used it to buy seven bags of heroin. Kane and Taylor intended to resell the heroin, make a profit, and use the proceeds to buy marijuana for Bruce and Mussare. It is unclear whether Mussare and Bruce knew of the heroin buying scheme, but they were present at the apartment when Taylor left with the money and when he returned with the heroin. Kane and Taylor then consumed some of the heroin themselves, after which Kane left to sell the remaining bags.

Mussare and Bruce remained at the apartment, waiting for Kane to return. Kane was unable to sell the remaining bags of heroin, and did not return that night. Mussare and Bruce left Sunday morning.

On Sunday evening, Mussare and Bruce returned to the apartment for the marijuana. Kane explained that he had been unable to sell the heroin, and informed Mussare and Bruce that he did not have the marijuana he owed them or the money they had given him.

On Monday, January 24, 2000, Mussare, Bruce, and Taylor were together at Jason Tortelli's apartment. Several other people were also there, including David Shay. The group was drinking and smoking marijuana. At some point during the evening, Shay and Taylor were talking on the phone to Shay's girlfriend, Stacy Bardo. During that conversation, Shay punched Taylor and told Bardo that he, Bruce, and Mussare had Taylor and were looking for Kane, because he owed them money. Later in the evening, Taylor was assaulted again, this time by Bruce, who punched him in the face and then kicked him repeatedly.

Around 11:00 p.m. on January 24, Tortelli told his guests to leave. Taylor, Mussare, Bruce, Shay, and Robert Confer then went to Taylor's apartment to find Kane. Kane was not there. During the course of the night, Taylor was tied up, kicked, burned with cigarettes, pistol-whipped with a paintball gun, and beaten with various objects. The letters "I M Thief" were burned onto his torso with a heated coat hanger. Shay, ...


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