« Law - " KSR v. Teleflex: The Supreme Court’s Big Patent Ruling" | Main | Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides environmental insurance case »

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case

In United States v. Jeremy S. Craft, (ND Ind., a 13-page opinion, Robert L. Miller, Jr., Chief Judge) Judge Flaum writes:

A jury convicted Jeremy Craft of six counts of damaging, by means of fire, a building used in interstate commerce in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(i) and two counts of knowingly using a fire to commit a felony in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(h). Craft filed a motion for acquittal on five of the counts. The district court denied the motion, and Craft appeals. For the following reasons, we affirm in part and reverse in part.
This was a case involving "over twenty arson fires set in the southeast side of South Bend, Indiana." The Court here confirmed on all counts except Count 5:
Craft further argues that the government did not produce sufficient evidence to prove that the property located at 807 W. Indiana, which was used as a clubhouse for local members of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club, was used in an activity affecting interstate commerce. * * *

After reviewing the record, we conclude that the government offered insufficient evidence that the Hells Angels clubhouse was used in an activity that affects interstate commerce. Jack Kendall, a former president of the Indiana chapter of the Hells Angels, stated that the property was used as a clubhouse for Hells Angels members “for [once-a-month] meetings and basically just parties of our own.” Kendall testified that the members paid dues at the monthly meetings. When asked “where are those dues sent to,” Kendall replied “the dues aren’t sent nowhere. They stay right in the charter to help pay for the expense of the building, the property, and stuff like that.” Kendall also testified, however, that the dues are used to reimburse club members for trips across state lines. * * *

Although some of the members’ dues were used to reimburse them for trips taken across state lines, any affect that those dues had on interstate commerce was too passive, too minimal, and too indirect to place the clubhouse property in § 844(i)’s reach. Indeed, reimbursing members for travel is comparable to the out-of-state purchases made by the churches in Odom and Rea. Without further evidence that the Hells Angels members actively employed the clubhouse for commercial purposes, no jury reasonably could conclude that the clubhouse was used in a manner that affected interstate commerce.

III. CONCLUSION. For the above reasons, we AFFIRM Craft’s conviction on counts two, four, seven, and nine, REVERSE Craft’s conviction on count five, and REMAND to the district court for re-sentencing.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 1, 2007 12:36 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions