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United States v. Shabazz

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

October 20, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
KHADIJA SHABAZZ, Defendant-Appellant.

          OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S OPINION AND ORDER AND DENYING DEFENDANT/APPELLANT'S APPEAL [6]

          Nancy G. Edmunds United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Khadija Shabazz's appeal (docket 6) of her conviction during a bench trial before Magistrate Judge David R. Grand, in which Defendant was found guilty of the misdemeanor offense of exhibiting disorderly or other conduct which: (a) created a loud or unusual noise or nuisance; (b) impeded or disrupted the performance of official duties by government employees; and (c) prevented the general public from obtaining the administrative services provided on the property in a timely manner in violation of 41 C.F.R. § 102-74.390. (Sept. 30, 2015 Op. and Order, dkt. 6-1.) The Magistrate Judge ordered the Defendant to pay a fine of $200. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's appeal is DENIED and the Court AFFIRMS the conviction.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "In all cases of conviction by a United States magistrate an appeal of right shall lie from the judgment of the magistrate judge to a judge of the district court of the district in which the offense was committed." 18 U.S.C. § 3402. In reviewing a magistrate judge's order or judgment, "[t]he defendant is not entitled to a trial de novo by a district judge, " but "[t]he scope of the appeal is the same as in an appeal to the court of appeals from a judgment entered by a district judge." Fed. R. Crim. P. 58(g)(2)(D). "[O]n an appeal from a judgment entered after a bench trial, we review the district court's findings of fact for clear error and its conclusions of law de novo." Beaven v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, 622 F.3d 540, 547 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing Lindstrom v. A-C Prod. Liab. Trust, 424 F.3d 488, 492 (6th Cir. 2005)). The district court may rely on the evidentiary record developed before the magistrate judge and does not need to conduct a de novo hearing. See U.S. v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 673-77 (1980) (case arising in context of a dispositive decision for which the magistrate does not have the authority to make a final and binding disposition; there is no requirement that the district judge conduct a new hearing). The Magistrate Judge's findings of fact are thorough and contain specific citations to the evidence of record, including the trial transcripts, and the Court cites to them herein.

         II. BACKGROUND AND FACTS

         This case arises from an incident which occurred on October 7, 2014, when Defendant Khadija Shabazz and her sister entered a Social Security Administration ("SSA") Office. The SSA office contains both an initial screening area where bags are searched and a secondary screening area with a metal detector; there were three security guards on duty at the time the sisters arrived. (Sept. 30, 2015 Op. and Order ¶ 3, dkt. 6-1.) While the sisters were in the initial screening area, they engaged in conversation with each other regarding the security procedures. At that point, one of the security guards made a comment to the sisters related to their conversation, noting that the SSA office had long had security procedures in place. (Op. and Order ¶ 8.) Defendant criticized the security guard, apparently for participating in their conversation, stating that he was "'just a security guard' who couldn't make it through the Police Academy.'" (Op. and Order ¶ 9.) Engagement between Defendant and the security officer continued as Defendant moved from the initial screening area to the secondary screening area. (Op. and Order ¶¶ 9, 10.) The Magistrate Judge characterized Defendant's comments at this time as "negative" yet also found that at this point in time, while Defendant's conduct "was perhaps disrespectful and discourteous, " it "had not risen to the level of a 'disturbance.'" (Op. and Order ¶¶ 10, 11.) The Magistrate Judge found that as Defendant completed the secondary screening procedures, her sister was still able to be processed at the initial screening area and no other business of the SSA office had yet been interrupted. (Op. and Order ¶ 11.)

         It was as Defendant left the second screening area and headed toward the waiting area that the "disturbance" began. (Op. and Order ¶ 12.) Defendant further verbally engaged with the security guard at the secondary screening post, which engagement was "loud" or "very loud", and "belligerent, " as the Magistrate Judge found based on testimony and video which showed body language consistent with the testimony. (Op. and Order ¶ 12.) The exchange drew the security guard from his post and toward Defendant. The security guard asked Defendant to leave and Defendant challenged his authority to do so. At one point Defendant called 9-1-1, while two security guards advised her to make such a call from the vestibule area. (Op. and Order ¶ 15.) During these exchanges, two of the security guards had left their posts and "a number of customers had built up in the vestibule area and were unable to proceed through security." (Op. and Order ¶ 17.) One of the security guard's physical attempt to detain Defendant resulted in a "short struggle" after which the guard was able to handcuff Defendant. (Op. and Order ¶ 20.) During this disturbance, "business essentially ceased at the SSA office, and customers were escorted out, " resulting in an interruption of service of approximately 15 to 30 minutes. (Op. and Order ¶ 21.) The SSA Office notified Federal Protective Services ("FPA") of the incident and the FIA inspector arrived shortly thereafter. (Op. and Order ¶ 22.) The inspector interviewed witnesses including Defendant, reviewed the surveillance video of the incident and issued Defendant a citation for violating 41 C.F.R. § 102-74.390. (Op. and Order ¶ 22.) Following a two-day bench trial on July 13 and 14, 2015, the Magistrate Judge found Defendant guilty of violating 41 C.F.R. § 102-74.390. The Magistrate Judge concluded that the government had "demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that [Defendant] Shabazz exhibited disorderly or other conduct which: a) created a loud or unusual noise or nuisance; (b) impeded or disrupted the performance of official duties by government employees; and (c) prevented the general public from obtaining the administrative services provided on the property in a timely manner." The magistrate also found that the government has demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that the offense occurred on public property, that the Defendant failed to comply with an official sign conspicuously posted at the SSA office, and that Defendant acted in an unlawful, willful, and knowing manner. (Op. and Order ¶¶ 30-33.)

         Defendant now appeals the Magistrate Judge's decision, arguing that her conviction was obtained in violation of her First Amendment rights. (Def.'s Br. on Direct Appeal, dkt. 6.)

         III. ANALYSIS

         The Magistrate Judge convicted Defendant of violating 41 C.F.R. § 102-74.390 which provides:

         All persons entering in or on Federal property are prohibited from loitering, exhibiting disorderly conduct or exhibiting other conduct on property that-

(a) Creates loud or unusual noise or a nuisance;
(b) Unreasonably obstructs the usual use of entrances, foyers, lobbies, corridors, offices, elevators, ...

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