Argued: January 30, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Virginia, at Harrisonburg. Michael F. Urbanski,
Chief District Judge. (5:15-cr-00029-MFU-2)
Leroy Parker, DAVID L. PARKER, PC, Harrisonburg, Virginia,
Heather Lynn Carlton, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY,
Charlottesville, Virginia, for Appellee.
Mountcastle, Acting United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Roanoke, Virginia, for Appellee.
NIEMEYER and TRAXLER, Circuit Judges, and SHEDD, Senior
SENIOR CIRCUIT JUDGE.
convicted Carolyn Edlind of witness tampering, conspiracy to
commit witness tampering, and obstruction of justice. Edlind
appeals, arguing that the evidence is insufficient to support
her convictions. Because we conclude that a reasonable jury
could have found that Edlind corruptly persuaded the witness
to alter his testimony, we affirm.
2014, a federal grand jury in the Western District of
Virginia indicted Felix Adriano Chujoy and his mother, Maria
McTague, for human trafficking, money laundering, and other
offenses. See United States v. Maria Rosalba Alvarado
McTague et al., No. 5:14-CR-055 (filed Dec. 4, 2014)
(the Inca's Secret case). The charges arose from
their operation of Inca's Secret, a Peruvian restaurant
in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Before trial, Chujoy was released
with several conditions, including the condition that he
refrain from contacting any witnesses or potential witnesses
in the Inca's Secret case. His mother was
released into the custody of Gary and Carolyn Edlind, close
family friends of Chujoy and McTague. The families were so
close that Chujoy called Edlind "tia" or
Chujoy's arrest, the Edlinds and several of Chujoy's
close friends, including Christina Kang, Michael Kwiatkowski,
and Donald Smith, formed a support group for him. The group
met for meals at the Edlinds' home, and for "Taco
Tuesdays" at a local restaurant. None of the friends
were overly familiar with Inca's Secret or its operation.
On one occasion, however, Kwiatkowski had joined Chujoy in
transporting several restaurant employees and Chujoy told
Kwiatkowski that the workers were all "illegal."
(S.J.A. 734). Kwiatkowski, however, thought Chujoy was
"joking." (S.J.A. 734).
this time, federal agents began receiving reports from
witnesses in the Inca's Secret case that McTague
and Chujoy had been contacting them. Cell phone records
revealed calls from McTague but not Chujoy. Instead, the
records showed multiple calls to the witnesses from
Chujoy's friends' phones, including phones belonging
to Edlind and Kwiatkowski. During interviews with Kwiatkowski
and Edlind, the agents learned that Chujoy frequently
borrowed their phones to make calls. In light of this new
information, the grand jury entered a superseding indictment
charging Chujoy and McTague with witness
the issuance of the superseding indictment, Chujoy was
arrested and detained. The Edlinds continued to attend and
organize Taco Tuesdays with Kang and Kwiatkowski, but the
meetings became more sporadic. Edlind, in particular, worried
for Chujoy and became paranoid that the Government was
investigating his friends. During the dinners, the friends
would discuss the case, Chujoy's strange sense of humor,
and his use of other peoples' phones. Edlind would ask
Kang and Kwiatkowski not to bring their phones to the
restaurant or to sit on them in case the Government was
listening in on their conversations. Both Edlinds would also
ask if Kwiatkowski or Kang had been contacted by the
March 25, the Edlinds invited Kwiatkowski and Kang to their
house for dessert. During this event, Edlind asked everyone
to leave their cell phones outside and then proceeded to
"bash" Chujoy while also telling everyone that,
if contacted by federal agents, they should "tell them
that . . . we don't know anything because we don't
know anything." (S.J.A. 741). Kwiatkowski found the
statement "strange." (S.J.A. 742).
Chujoy remained in pretrial detention. During his detention,
he repeatedly called Edlind and Smith. Edlind visited nine
times, and on other occasions was seen standing outside the
jail blowing kisses to someone inside. Chujoy put Kwiatkowski
on his visitor list and asked him to come, but Kwiatkowski
did not do so. Chujoy also made calls, primarily to Smith and
another friend, Yuri Jung, using another inmate's
personal identification number, prodding them to get
Kwiatkowski to visit.
with the Inca's Secret trial only several weeks
away, Chujoy sent a letter to Edlind on June 3, 2015:
I'm going to keep this very short in hopes that it
reaches you by or before saturday. I met w[ith] my attorney
yesterday [and] he read me Mike Kwiatkowski's interview
w[ith] the feds. I'm pretty shocked by what it says, so
I'm hoping that it is either a big misunderstanding or
that the feds are twisting it around. The interview says that
according to Mike, my mom was very intimidating, that I
can't be trusted, and that I'm always lying and
making up stories. It goes on into more specific stories and
examples that made me laugh, as I realized that Mike really
is as dumb as a door knob, as he obviously could not
understand/differentiate when I was joking and when I was
being serious. His entire testimony/interview reminded me of
a big misunderstanding that we (Mike, Christina [Kang] &
I) had over a joke, when I told Christina that he was mildly
Please make sure to meet with both of them so that Mike
understands that much of the information he gave out is
incorrect and could lead into me getting into a
huge problem. Be nice to him about it, as I
wouldn't want to offend him or have him take things
personal. I understand that my jokes are sometimes stupid
[and] between that [and] him not being able to tell when I
was joking or not, his comments/interview are ludicrous.
I hope you get to meet w[ith] them ASAP, as clarifying all
this is pretty crucial.
P.S. He should probably also clarify that we didn't
really start hanging out, until half way through 2014, as
that would probably explain why we were always on two
different pages [and] why he didn't really know much
about me, or why he couldn't tell when I was joking.
receiving Chujoy's June 3 letter, Edlind visited him at
the jail on June 6. Later that day, she sent a text to
Kwiatkowski and Kang: "Very important we meet this
week!!!!please contact me if you can't do Tuesday."
(S.J.A. 1069). Kang said she preferred to talk over the
phone, and Kwiatkowski texted the group that they
"probably shouldn't be talking about" something
that could not be discussed over text. (S.J.A. 1071). Edlind
responded, "not on the phone you know why, "
(S.J.A. 1071), and "phones in the car will be fine like
we have in the past, " (S.J.A. 1072). She then texted,
"you guys opt out I'll tell Felix don't worry
about it I don't need to stress either." (S.J.A.
1073). Kang did opt out, but Kwiatkowski agreed to meet for
Taco Tuesday at El Charro. Unbeknownst to Edlind, however,
Kwiatkowski contacted government agents and wore a recording
device for the dinner.
Kwiatkowski arrived at El Charro, the Edlinds told him to sit
on his phone before Edlind told him he could put it outside
in her bicycle basket. Edlind admitted to Kwiatkowski that
Chujoy had asked her to contact Kwiatkowski and "[t]ell
him not to say anything, don't write anymore, do
nothing." (J.A. 233). She also brought up the teasing
incident referenced in Chujoy's letter, before asking
"He told you back in November or something that he
murdered somebody? . . . He told you that and you believed
it?" (J.A. 234-35). She then ...