United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
For Wilson Daniel Peralta-Bocachica, Defendant: Lana Marie Manitta, LEAD ATTORNEY, Rich Rosenthal Brincefield Manitta Dzubin & Kroeger LLP, Alexandria, VA.
For USA, Plaintiff: Michael Ben'Ary, Stacey K. Luck, LEAD ATTORNEYS, U.S. Attorney's Office (Alexandria-NA), Alexandria, VA.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Gerald Bruce Lee, United States District Judge.
THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Wilson Bocachica's Motion to Dismiss Count VII of the Indictment as Unconstitutional as Applied (" Motion to Dismiss" ). (Doc. 96.) This case arises from the murder of DEA Special Agent James Terry Watson in Bogota, Colombia on June 20, 2013. The issue before the Court is whether Count VII of the indictment--Obstruction of Official Proceeding--is unconstitutional as applied to this Defendant who allegedly destroyed evidence in a criminal case investigation of a diplomat's murder in Colombia. The Court DENIES Defendant's Motion to Dismiss because the charged crime encompasses extraterritorial jurisdiction over Defendant's alleged conduct in Colombia and his due process rights are not violated by prosecuting him in the United States under United States v. Brehm, 691 F.3d 547 (4th Cir. 2012).
On July 18, 2013, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging six defendants with the murder of DEA Special Agent James Terry Watson. (Doc. 9 ¶ 1.) The murder allegedly occurred on June 20,2013, in Bogota, Colombia in a taxi cab as part of a scheme to rob taxi riders. (Doc. 9 ¶ 17.) The indictment charged the six defendants with: Count 1, murder of an internationally protected person and aiding and abetting tat murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 2, 1116(a), (c); Count 3, conspiracy to kidnap an internationally protected person, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1201(c); and Count 4, kidnapping an internationally protected person and aiding and abetting that kidnapping, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 2, 1201. (Doc. 9.) Defendant Wilson
Daniel Peralta-Bocachica was not charged in Counts 1, 3, and 4. He was charged with Count 7, obstruction of official proceeding (" obstruction of justice" ), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c). ( Id.)
The Government alleges that Special Agent Watson was robbed and stabbed to death in the back seat of a taxi cab. ( Id.) Agent Watson's murder was widely reported in Colombian media. (Doc. 158 at 9.) The Government further alleges that Defendant, knowing that his taxi contained evidence of the murder, cleaned and replaced the bloody back seat of his taxi in order to destroy evidence. (Doc. 154 at 3-4.)
The Court DENIES Defendant's Motion to Dismiss because the charged crime encompasses extraterritorial jurisdiction over Defendant's conduct and his due process rights are not violated by prosecuting him in the United States under United States v. Brehm, 691 F.3d 547 (4th Cir. 2012). Defendant's motion suggests that the Court must first determine whether Congress intended for a statute to be applied extraterritorially, and then determine whether Congress has the power to do so. (Doc. 97 at 3.) Defendant also suggests that the second step is inextricably intertwined with notice and due process, thereby requiring a due process analysis. ( Id.)
First, the Court finds that Congress intended for the charge of obstruction of official proceedings to be applied extraterritorially because the plain language of the statute undeniably demonstrates such intent. Congress expressly provided for extraterritorial application of jurisdiction in the obstruction of justice statute. See 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c). Section 1512(h), which states that " [t]here is extraterritorial Federal jurisdiction over an offense under this section," clearly overcomes the presumption against extra-territoriality by explicitly codifying Congress' intent that extraterritorial jurisdiction be applied regardless of where the offense occurs. See E.E.O.C. v. Arabian Am. Oil Co., 499 U.S. 244, 248, 111 S.Ct. 1227, 113 L.Ed.2d 274 (1991) (" It is a longstanding principle of American law that legislation of Congress, unless a contrary intent appears, is meant to apply only within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States." (emphasis added) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)); Reyes-Gaona v. N.C. Growers Ass'n, 250 F.3d 861, 864 (4th Cir. 2001) (" [T]he presumption against extra-territorial application of a federal statute can be overcome only if there is an affirmative intention of the Congress clearly expressed." (emphasis added) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)).
Second, the Court holds that Defendant's due process rights are not violated by the Government prosecuting him in the United States for obstruction of justice because exercising extraterritorial jurisdiction for this offense is proper under the Fourth Circuit's test set forth in Brehm. Defendant argues that the United States cannot meet the requirements of the sufficient nexus test. In contrast, the Government argues that if the sufficient nexus test applies, there is a sufficient nexus between the Defendant and the United States such that applying the ...