and Submitted March 10, 2017 Pasadena, California
from the United States District Court No. 2:14-cr-00208-BRO-1
for the Central District of California Beverly Reid
O'Connell, District Judge, Presiding
Rabe (argued), Muna Busailah, and Michael P. Stone, Stone
Busailah LLP, Pasadena, California, for Defendant-Appellant.
K. Riordan (argued), Assistant United States Attorney, Public
Corruption and Civil Rights Section; Lawrence S. Middleton,
Chief, Criminal Division; United States Attorney's
Office, Los Angeles, California; for Plaintiff-Appellee.
Before: Richard A. Paez, Marsha S. Berzon, and Morgan
Christen, Circuit Judges.
panel reversed the district court's denial of the
defendant's motion for a judgment of acquittal in a case
in which the defendant was convicted of obstruction of
justice under 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(3) for failing to
include material information about the use of force upon an
inmate in reports documenting the encounter with the inmate.
panel held that the "reasonable likelihood"
standard articulated in Fowler v. United States, 563
U.S. 668 (2011), applies to the federal nexus requirement of
§ 1512(b)(3). Applying the Fowler standard, the
panel held that there was insufficient evidence for any
rational juror to find that it was reasonably likely that the
defendant's reports would have reached federal officers.
Christopher Johnson ("Johnson") appeals his
obstruction of justice conviction under 18 U.S.C. §
1512(b)(3). The basis for Johnson's prosecution was his
failure to include material information about the use of
force upon an inmate in several reports documenting the
encounter with the inmate. On appeal, Johnson argues that the
Government failed to present sufficient evidence of a federal
nexus for the alleged offense.
de novo and applying the federal nexus standard established
in Fowler v. United States, we agree. More
precisely, we hold that there was insufficient evidence for
any rational juror to find that it was reasonably likely that
Johnson's reports would have reached federal officers. We
therefore reverse the district court's denial of
Johnson's motion for a judgment of acquittal under
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29.
17, 2013, Johnson was a custodial deputy working in the
control room of the Santa Barbara County Main Jail Inmate
Reception Center ("IRC"). A pre-trial detainee,
C.O., began using the emergency intercom system to contact
the control room with non-emergency calls. As a result,
Johnson enlisted Kirsch, another deputy, to accompany him to
the detainee's cell to "counsel" him about
proper usage of the intercom system. When C.O. responded
belligerently, Johnson and Kirsch handcuffed the detainee and
proceeded to lead him ...