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United States v. Bond

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

January 6, 2015




Berle M. Schiller, United States District Judge.

This is the final chapter of a long odyssey. This hoped for final installment featured a continuation of overzealous prosecution. The prosecutorial exercise of discretion here could have benefitted from the sage advice of Kenny Rogers: " know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away." [1] In this case, discretion was on vacation.

The case is now before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Expungement of the records of two convictions recently vacated by the Supreme Court. For the reasons that follow, the Court determines that it has jurisdiction to decide this motion as to the judicial records of these convictions, as well as to the executive records held by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Those records shall be expunged. The Court determines that it does not have jurisdiction to decide the motion as to the records held by the U.S. Postal Service, the FBI, or the U.S. Probation Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Although those records will not be ordered expunged by this Court, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania shall notify those agencies, and any other agency with which they have communicated about this case, that Defendant's convictions have been vacated by the Supreme Court and expunged.


The following briefly summarizes the pertinent facts of the case, which may be found in greater detail in United States v. Bond, 581 F.3d 128 (3d Cir. 2009) ( Bond I ), Bond v. United States, 131 S.Ct. 2355, 180 L.Ed.2d 269 (2011) ( Bond II ), United States v. Bond, 681 F.3d 149 (3d Cir. 2012) ( Bond III ), and Bond v. United States, 134 S.Ct. 2077, 189 L.Ed.2d 1 (2014) ( Bond IV ).

A. Factual Background

Defendant Carol Anne Bond is a microbiologist who discovered that her husband and her best friend had been having an affair, resulting in her erstwhile friend's pregnancy. Bond sought revenge by regularly placing toxic chemicals on the friend's car door, mailbox, and door knob over the course of approximately eight months. The chemicals were plainly visible and the friend suffered no injuries except " a minor chemical burn on her thumb, which she treated by rinsing with water." Bond IV, 134 S.Ct. at 2087. Although the friend repeatedly reported the chemicals to the local police, they failed to act. Eventually she went to the postal service, which dispatched inspectors to investigate the interference with her mailbox. Surveillance cameras placed by these inspectors captured video of Bond opening the mailbox, removing an envelope, and placing chemicals inside the friend's muffler.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania convicted Bond of a minor offense for some harassing phone calls and letters she sent to her victim, but did not bring charges related to the chemicals. Apparently not satisfied with this result, the United States charged her with two counts of mail fraud and two counts of possessing and using a chemical weapon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 229 (2014). That statute was passed in the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act, Pub. L. No. 105-277, 112 Stat. 2681-856 (1998). Bond conditionally pled guilty to all of the federal charges, reserving her right to appeal. She was sentenced to six years in prison. On appeal, Bond raised a Tenth Amendment challenge to the chemical weapons charges. The Government asserted she lacked standing and the Third Circuit agreed. Bond I, 581 F.3d 128. When the Supreme Court granted cert, the Government reversed its position and conceded the standing question. Bond II, 131 S.Ct. at 2361. The Supreme Court reversed on the standing issue, without expressing an opinion on the merits of the constitutional challenge. Id. at 2367.

On remand, Bond again raised her Tenth Amendment challenge and, in the alternative, argued that section 229 did not reach her conduct. Although the Third Circuit noted that, under the Government's interpretation, the breadth of the Act " turns each kitchen cupboard and cleaning cabinet in America into a potential weapons cache, " Bond III, 681 F.3d at 154 n.7, it reluctantly determined that the statute covered Bond's conduct and moved on to the constitutional question, which the Circuit also determined in the Government's favor.

The Supreme Court again granted cert and unanimously reversed the Third Circuit in Bond IV . A majority of the Court avoided the direct constitutional challenge by holding that section 229 did not cover Bond's conduct. Bond IV, 134 S.Ct. at 2091. The Court found that the statute's meaning was ambiguous because of the following factors: " the improbably broad reach of the key statutory definition given the term--'chemical weapon'--being defined; the deeply serious consequences of adopting such a boundless reading; and the lack of any apparent need to do so in light of the context from which the statute arose--a treaty about chemical warfare and terrorism." Bond IV, 134 S.Ct. at 2090. The Court stated it was bound to interpret the statute " consistent with principles of federalism inherent in our constitutional structure." Id. at 2088. The Court therefore determined: " the background principle that Congress does not normally intrude upon the police power of the States is critically important. In light of that principle, we are reluctant to conclude that Congress meant to punish Bond's crime with a federal prosecution for a chemical weapons attack." Id. at 2092.

Along the way, the Court repeatedly noted the " curious" nature of the case, stating: " with the exception of this unusual case, the Federal Government itself has not looked to section 229 to reach purely local crimes." Id. at 2090, 2092. The Court further criticized the Government's approach, stating:

The Government's reading of section 229 would alter sensitive federal-state relationships, convert an astonishing amount of traditionally local criminal conduct into a matter for federal enforcement, and involve a substantial extension of federal police resources. It would transform the statute from one whose core concerns are acts of war, assassinations, and terrorism into a massive federal anti-poisoning regime that reaches the simplest of assaults. As the Government reads section 229, hardly a poisoning in the land would fall outside the federal statute's domain.

Id. at 2091-92 (internal quotations and citations omitted). Later, the Court continued:

Prosecutorial discretion involves carefully weighing the benefits of a prosecution against the evidence needed to convict, the resources of the public fisc, and the public policy of the State. Here, in its zeal to prosecute Bond, the Federal Government has displaced the public policy of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, enacted in its ...

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