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United States v. Bond

September 17, 2009


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Criminal Action No. 2-07-cr-00528-001) District Judge: Honorable James T. Giles.

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


Argued March 23, 2009

Before: RENDELL, AMBRO, and JORDAN, Circuit Judges.


Carol Anne Bond pled guilty to two counts of possessing and using a chemical weapon, and two counts of mail theft, in connection with her efforts to harm a former friend. She now appeals the District Court's pretrial order denying her motions to dismiss the charges against her and to suppress evidence. She also challenges her sentence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm each of the Court's actions.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Bond was excited when her closest friend, Myrlinda Haynes, announced that she was pregnant. Bond's excitement turned to rage when she learned that her husband, Clifford Bond, was the child's father. She vowed revenge.

Planning to poison Haynes, Bond (a trained microbiologist) stole a quantity of 10-chloro-10H-phenoxarsine from her employer, the chemical manufacturer Rohm and Haas, and ordered over the Internet a vial of potassium dichromate. These chemicals have the rare ability to cause toxic harm to individuals through minimal topical contact.*fn1

Bond attempted to poison Haynes with the chemicals at least 24 times over the course of several months. She often would spread them on Haynes's home doorknob, car door handles, and mailbox. Haynes noticed the chemicals and usually avoided harm, but on one occasion sustained a chemical burn to her thumb.

Haynes called her local police about the chemical attacks. They suggested that the substance might be cocaine and told Haynes to clean her car and door handles on a regular basis. Unsatisfied (to say the least) with this response, Haynes complained to her local postal carriers about the chemicals on her mailbox. They referred the matter to the United States Postal Inspection Service.

Based on Haynes's complaint, postal inspectors placed surveillance cameras in and around Haynes's home. These cameras captured Bond opening Haynes's mailbox, stealing a business envelope, and placing potassium dichromate inside Haynes's car muffler. They specifically showed Bond going back and forth between her car and Haynes's with the chemicals.

After testing the chemicals that Bond placed in Haynes's muffler, postal inspectors attempted to trace their origin to the Rohm and Haas center where Bondworked as a technical assistant. The inspectors determined that nearly four pounds of potassium dichromate were missing from a common storage area to which Bond had access.

With this information, the inspectors sought and received an arrest warrant for Bond and search warrants for her car and home. They supported their warrant requests with an affidavit detailing the gathered evidence, including the videotaped footage, results of the chemical analyses, and the report of the missing chemicals. The affidavit also explained Bond's responsibilities at Rohm and Haas, described her car and home, and noted that Haynes had identified Bond from a photo array.

Postal inspectors arrested Bond and took her to a holding cell in the Philadelphia Post Office. Once there, Bond acknowledged and waived her constitutional rights, and admitted to taking the chemicals from Rohm and Haas. Meanwhile, other inspectors executed the search warrants, finding a piece of Haynes's mail and amounts of the chemicals in Bond's home and car.

A grand jury in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania charged Bond with two counts of possessing and using a chemical weapon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 229(a)(1), a criminal statute implementing the treaty obligations of the United States under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. The grand jury also charged Bond with two counts of mail theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1708.

Bond moved to suppress certain evidence and to dismiss the two chemical weapons charges. She claimed that the affidavits supporting the search warrants failed to establish probable cause to search her home and car, and she argued that 18 U.S.C. § 229 is unconstitutional because it violates principles of federalism embodied in our Constitution and the fair notice requirements of its Due Process Clause.

The District Court denied Bond's motions. It ruled that § 229 did not impinge on principles of federalism because it "was enacted by Congress and signed by the President under the necessary and proper clause of the Constitution . . . [to] comply with the provisions of a treaty." App. 168. The Court next concluded that "the statute is not vague, [because] it is clear that if anybody uses a toxic chemical for other than peaceful purposes, th[at] person can be prosecuted." Id. at 169. It ruled as well that "the search warrants were properly issued," because sufficient evidence existed to permit a "probable cause conclusion that a substantial amount of potassium dichromate would probably be found in [Bond's] vehicle or where she lived." Id. at 170--72.

Following the Court's denial of her motions, Bond pled guilty to all charges, reserving her right to appeal. The Court then held a sentencing hearing at which it enhanced Bond's total offense level by two levels based on a determination under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.3 that she used a special skill in the commission or her offense. The Court ultimately sentenced Bond to six years' imprisonment, five years of supervised release, a $2,000 fine, and restitution of $9,902.79. Bond appeals.

II. Jurisdiction and Standard of Review

The District Court had jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 3231. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and 18 U.S.C. § 3742.

We review de novo a challenge to the constitutionality of a criminal statute. See De Leon-Reynoso v. Aschcroft, 293 F.3d 633, 635 (3d Cir. 2002). We consider "denial of a motion to suppress for clear error as to the underlying factual findings and exercise[] plenary review of the District Court's application of the law to those facts." United States v. Perez, 280 F.3d 318, 336 (3d Cir. 2002). We likewise review de novo the District Court's interpretation of the Sentencing ...

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