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United States v. Odeh

United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division

February 13, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
RASMIEH ODEH, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING AMENDED MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL [#142] AND DENYING AMENDED MOTION FOR JUDGMENT NOTWITHSTANDING THE VERDICT [#143]

GERSHWIN A. DRAIN, United States District Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

Following a jury trial, Defendant Rasmieh Odeh was found guilty of the single charge in the Indictment, unlawful procurement of citizenship, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1425(a). Presently before the Court are the following motions: (1) Defendant’s Amended[1] Motion for New Trial, filed on November 21, 2014, and (2) Defendant’s Amended Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict, also filed on November 21, 2014. The Government has filed Responses in Opposition to the present motions.

Upon review of the parties’ submissions, the Court concludes that oral argument will not aid in the resolution of Defendant’s pending motions. As such, her motions will be determined on the briefs submitted. See E.D. Mich. L. Cr. R. 12.1; E.D. Mich. L.R. 7.1(f)(2). For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny Defendant’s Amended Motion for New Trial and Defendant’s Amended Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict.

II. LAW & ANALYSIS

A. Defendant’s Motion for New Trial

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33(a) governs a criminal defendant’s request for new trial and states in relevant part: “Upon the defendant’s motion, the court may vacate any judgment and grant a new trial if the interest of justice so requires.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a). The Sixth Circuit has held that “it is widely agreed that Rule 33's ‘interests of justice’ standard allows the grant of a new trial where substantial legal error has occurred.” United States v. Munoz, 605 F.3d 359, 373 (6th Cir. 2010).

As an initial matter, Defendant’s Motion for a New Trial is so lacking in legal authority and argument, it should be denied on this basis alone. Defendant claims the Court committed nine legal errors, yet fails to cite a single case, statute, rule or other authority supporting her assertion. Defendant did not even include the legal standard for granting new trials. Nor does she develop her arguments in any meaningful way. Moreover, it is not clear why Defendant re-raises numerous arguments already thoroughly considered and rejected by this Court, particularly in light of the fact that she offers no new arguments explaining why this Court’s original conclusions were incorrect.

Defendant first argues the Court committed error in ruling that 18 U.S.C. § 1425(a) is a general intent crime. Here, Defendant perfunctorily rehashes her argument that § 1425(a) is a specific intent crime. Similar to her previous argument on this issue, Defendant fails to provide the Court with any authority supporting her contention that § 1425(a) is a specific intent crime.[2] See United States v. Pasillas-Gaytan, 192 F.3d 864, 869 (9th Cir. 1999) (finding § 1425 requires proof that the defendant either “knew he was ineligible for naturalization due to his criminal record, or knowingly misrepresented his criminal record in his application or interview.”); United States v. Aquino, No. 1:07cr428, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7635, *7 (N.D. Ohio Feb. 1, 2008) (concluding that “because §1425 requires only ‘knowing’ conduct rather than imposing the stricter ‘willful’ requirement, the defendant did not have to know that procuring naturalization was a criminal act.”). This argument fails to demonstrate the interests of justice require a new trial.

Next, Defendant argues that she should have been allowed to call her expert witness, Dr. Mary Fabri, to establish that she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”). The Court has previously explained that because § 1425(a) is a general intent crime, this type of psychological evidence is inadmissible to negate mens rea. See United States v. Kines, 246 F.3d 800, 806 (6th Cir. 2001); United States v. Gonyea, 140 F.3d 649, 651 (6th Cir. 1998). Defendant offers no contrary authority and nor could she considering the law is well-settled in this circuit concerning the admission of this type of evidence to negate the mens rea required for establishing a general intent crime.

Additionally, Defendant’s suggestion that even if § 1425(a) is a general intent crime, she should have been allowed to present this psychological evidence as a defense to the crime charged in the Indictment is without merit. It is also beyond dispute that diminished capacity evidence is irrelevant to the mens rea element of a general intent crime. See United States v. Willis, No. 97-4091, 1999 WL 591440 (6th Cir. Jul. 29, 1999). The Willis court specifically noted that “by eliminating the ‘volitional’ prong of the insanity defense, Congress meant to preclude only the use of ‘non-insanity’ psychiatric evidence that points toward ‘exoneration or mitigation of an offense because of a defendant’s supposed psychiatric compulsion or inability or failure to engage in normal reflection.’” Id. at *6. Here, Defendant sought to introduce expert psychological testimony that her PTSD caused her to “filter” memories and interpret questions on the naturalization application inquiring about criminal history to refer to criminal history in the United States only. This is precisely the type of psychiatric evidence Congress sought to preclude as explained by the Willis court. These purported claims of error are without basis in law.

Because Defendant’s PTSD defense was irrelevant and inadmissible pursuant to well-settled law, the Court likewise did not err in excluding her claims of torture. Here again, Defendant re-raises the same arguments already considered and rejected by this Court without presenting any new arguments. She similarly fails to cite any authority for her claim that this evidence should have been permitted at her trial. As this Court previously found, the issue for the jury was whether the Defendant knowingly made a false statement by answering “no” to the naturalization application’s question, “[h]ave you EVER been convicted of a crime or offense?” As such, the mere fact of Defendant’s conviction was relevant, and not whether that conviction was obtained by purported torture or without due process of law. This argument provides no basis for a new trial.

Defendant next argues that the Court erred in admitting the documents received pursuant to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. Defendant again fails to add any new arguments to this issue nor does she direct the Court’s attention to any authority demonstrating this Court improperly admitted the documents, which were authenticated pursuant to the terms of the treaty. Defendant is not entitled to a new trial based on the admission of the documents produced pursuant to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.

Defendant’s argument concerning redaction of the documents produced pursuant to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty fares no better. Defendant wrongly asserts that her conviction for the bombing of a grocery store that resulted in the death of two civilians is irrelevant to the charge in the Indictment. The nature of the crime for which Defendant was convicted in Jerusalem is relevant to two elements: materiality and procurement. Defendant again overlooks the fact that a minor conviction such as loitering, unlike her 1969 conviction, would not impact her ability to establish good moral character, nor would it call into question whether she ...


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