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United States v. Raya

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

August 26, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
AMANY MOHAMED RAYA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court on defendant Amany Mohamed Raya's Motion to Dismiss Count One and Count Three of the Superseding Indictment, ECF No. 59, filed on June 10, 2019. On July 25, 2019, the government filed its written points authorities in response to this motion, and this same day, the court held a hearing on this motion and other motions noticed by the parties, see ECF No. 86. The court granted Raya fourteen (14) days leave to file a supplemental response, which was so filed on August 8, 2019, ECF No. 89.[1]This motion is fully briefed and therefore ripe for decision. For the reasons stated below, the court denies Raya's motion. The trial of this case is scheduled for four (4) days, beginning on August 27, 2019.

         I.

         The following background is a summary of the facts as they have been presented to the court by counsel for both parties' in their respective briefs and during the July 25, 2019 hearing. This case involves an alleged conspiracy between Amany Mohamed Raya, Eric Aurelio Price, Monta Orlando Jordan, and "one or more unindicted co-conspirators," ECF No. 85, at 1, to smuggle contraband into the Roanoke City Jail, "for the benefit of federal detainee, Monta Jordan," id.

         Raya was charged in a six-count Superseding Indictment, ECF No. 54, on June 6, 2019. Raya's alleged co-conspirator, Eric Aurelio Price, was also charged. The government alleges that Raya and Price, working together and at the direction of Monta Orlando Jordan, manufactured a binder "designed to resemble privileged legal mail so they could smuggle contraband to Jordan, a federal detainee awaiting trial at the Roanoke City Jail." JA at 2. The government alleges that after inserting marijuana, a cellphone, and a smart watch into the spine of the fake binder, Raya attempted to send the binder to Jordan through the United States mail. Id. The package was intercepted by sheriffs deputies before it reached Jordan. Id.

         Count One of the Superseding Indictment charges Raya with violating 18 U.S.C. § 1791(a)(1) and (d)(1)(B), as follows:

1. That on or about March 1, 2019, in the Western District of Virginia, the defendant, [Raya], contrary to Title 21, United States Code, Section 841, did knowingly provide and attempt to provide one or more prohibited objects, to wit: marihuana, to Monta Jordan, an inmate of the Roanoke City Jail, a facility in which persons are held in custody by direction of and pursuant to a contract and agreement with the Attorney General.

Count Three charges a conspiracy in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1791(a)(1), (d)(1)(B), and (d)(1)(F), as well as Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, as follows:

1. That in or about February and March 2018, in the Western District of Virginia and elsewhere, the defendants, [Raya, Price], also known as Eshan Muhammed, and others, knowingly conspired to commit a crime against the United States, to wit, providing and attempting to provide one or more prohibited objects: marihuana, a mobile phone, and a watch, to an inmate of the Roanoke City Jail, a facility in which persons are held in custody by direction of and pursuant to a contract and agreement with the Attorney General, . . . and committed acts to effect the object of the conspiracy, including but not limited to, the following acts:
a. In or about February and March 2018, [Raya and Price] constructed a binder, disguised as legal correspondence, which was designed to conceal marihuana, a mobile phone and a watch.
b. On or about March 1, 2018, Price communicated electronically with and received instruction from the intended recipient of the contraband, Monta Jordan, a federal inmate of the Roanoke City Jail, about the manner in which the binder should be constructed.
c. On or about March 1, 2018, [Raya] attempted to introduce the binder, containing marihuana, a mobile phone, and a watch, in the Roanoke City Jail through the use of the United States mail.

See ECF No. 54, at 1-3. There is no dispute that Monta Jordan is charged with federal offenses and is being held at the Roanoke City Jail ("RCJ") pursuant to a contract between the United States Marshals Service and the RCJ. ECF No. 59, at 2.

         II.

         Title 18, United States Code, Section 1791 provides, in relevant part, that "Whoever, . . . in violation of a statute or a rule or order issued under a statute, provides to an inmate of a prison a prohibited object, or attempts to do so ... shall be punished as provided in subsection (b) of this section." 18 U.S.C. § 1791(a)(2). Section 1791 defines "prison" as a "Federal correctional, detention, or penal facility or any prison, institution, or facility in which persons are held in custody by direction of or pursuant to a contract or agreement with the Attorney General." 18 U.S.C. § 1791(d)(4). The definition of "prison" was expanded by amendment in 2006 to include "any prison, institution, or facility in which persons are held in custody by direction of or pursuant to a contract or agreement with the Attorney General." See United States v. Kemp, 200 F.Supp.3d 1187, 1189 (D. Kan. 2016) (citing Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005, Pub. L. No. 109-162, Title XI, § 1178, Jan. 5, 2006). The government asserts that in response to the increasing number of federal inmates held in state institutions, 18 U.S.C. § 1791 was specifically amended to make clear that the term "prison" applied not only to those institutions that are "purely federal," but "also state facilities in which federal inmates are housed by contract or agreement." ECF No. 85, at 4 n.4.

         A.

         Raya argues that Count One and Count Three of the Superseding Indictment should be dismissed on several grounds. First, she argues that the RCJ is not a "prison" as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 1791 because the relevant contract to house federal detainees, including Monta Jordan, was "between RCJ and the United States Marshals Service, not the Attorney General." ECF No. 59, at 3. Raya claims, therefore, that her alleged conduct does not constitute an offense under 18 U.S.C. § 1791. Second, Raya contends that to construe § 1791(d)(4), which defines the term "prison," as including the RCJ "could" result in the government asserting federal jurisdiction over any local jail contracting with the federal government, allowing for the federal government to charge state prisoners with a federal offense for possession of prison contraband. Id. Raya claims that interpreting § 1791 in a way that enlarges federal jurisdiction in this manner violates the Tenth Amendment and principles of state sovereignty. Id. Third, Raya asserts that 18 U.S.C. ยง 1791 is unconstitutionally vague if interpreted to apply in a case such as hers because a person "would not be on fair notice that she could be charged with a federal crime involving prison contraband by giving contraband to an inmate ...


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