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United States v. Spencer

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

February 9, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
TODD ALLEN SPENCER, a/k/a Todd Alan Spencer, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: December 8, 2016

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Norfolk. Robert G. Doumar, Senior District Judge. (2:13-cr-00131-RGD-LRL-1)

          Frances H. Pratt, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellant.

          Richard Daniel Cooke, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellee.

          Geremy C. Kamens, Federal Public Defender, Rodolfo Cejas, II, Assistant Federal Public Defender, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellant.

          Dana J. Boente, United States Attorney, Alexandria, Virginia, William D. Muhr, Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Norfolk, Virginia, for Appellee.

          Before WILKINSON, SHEDD, and DUNCAN, Circuit Judges.

          WILKINSON, Circuit Judge

         Todd Allen Spencer pleaded guilty to mailing a threatening letter in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 876(c). The district court deviated upward from the advisory Guidelines range to account for the threat's effect on the victim and imposed a 45-month sentence.

         Spencer now contends that his sentence was procedurally and substantively unreasonable. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         I.

         On September 12, 2013, the clerk's office of the federal courthouse in Norfolk, Virginia received a letter from an inmate at Chesapeake City Jail identified as "T.A. Spencer." The letter was covered in white powder and read, in part, as follows:

You never know when it can happen! The very letter you hold may indeed be the last you hold. This letter may contain on it what takes your last breath. Who knows? Only time will tell. Good luck to you.

. . . .

Should you run? Should you stay? Who do you call to make it all go away? Are you already infected with the pain? What do you do? Is there anything to gain? Only time will tell.

J.A. 14-15. The clerk who opened the letter was "disconcerted and afraid"; at the instruction of the U.S. Marshals she locked herself alone - with the letter - in the mailroom until inspectors arrived. J.A. 15. In the course of the investigation, one inspector visited Spencer at Chesapeake City Jail, where he admitted to sending the letter and explained that the powder was dried toothpaste. He had included the powder "to enhance the effect of the letter ...


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