United States v. Havelock

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 01-06-2012
  • Case #: 08-10472
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: En banc. Judge Fletcher for the Court; Concurrence by Judge N. Smith; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Judge Reinhardt; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Judge Wardlaw; and Dissent by Judge Fisher
  • Full Text Opinion

Under 18 USC § 867(c), a mailed communication containing a threat must be directed to a natural person; a court may look beyond the outside of the parcel to the contents of the letter or package to determine to whom, if anybody, such a threat is addressed.

On February 3, 2008, Richard Havelock sent a "media packet" to six different media outlets in which, among other things, he provided a manifesto and an apology for a shooting rampage he intended to carry out later that day at Super Bowl XLII. Before carrying out the act, Havelock experienced a change of heart and he turned himself into the Tempe Police. A jury convicted Havelock on six counts of mailing a threatening communication, in violation of 18 USC § 876(c), which prohibits mailing communications "addressed to any other person and containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of the addressee or of another." Havelock appeals, contending he addressed the letters to newspapers and websites, not natural persons. The Court looked at other uses of "person" in the statute, to determine if Congress intended the statute to apply only to mailings sent to natural persons and not entities. The Court also looked at the context of "addressed to" and found that another section of the statute spoke to the physical address for delivery located on the exterior of the envelope, and that "addressed to" under §876(c) allows a court to look to the actual contents of the mailing. The Court found that none of the letters were addressed to natural persons, and that Havelock did not address the manifesto inside the mailings to any individual person. REVERSED and REMANDED for JUDGMENT of ACQUITTAL.

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