APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MAINE. Hon. D. Brock Hornby, U.S. District Judge.
Peter J. Cyr on brief for appellant.
Margaret D. McGaughey, Assistant United States Attorney, and Richard W. Murphy, Attorney for the United States, acting under authority conferred by 28 U.S.C. § 515, on brief for appellee.
Before Lynch, Chief Judge, Kayatta and Barron, Circuit Judges.
LYNCH, Chief Judge.
Following a jury trial, Benjamin Lee was convicted of two counts of interstate stalking with the intent to harm, or even kill, his estranged wife and her boyfriend, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 2261A(1) and 2261(b)(5), and sentenced to 100 months' imprisonment. On appeal, he challenges the admission of evidence of his earlier domestic abuse of his wife, the conduct of his trial, and the sufficiency of the evidence against him. He also says his sentence was unreasonable. There was no error. Lee had a fair trial, the jury verdict was soundly based, and the sentence was reasonable in view of the facts.
We review the facts in the light most favorable to the jury's guilty verdict.
See United States v. Rodríguez, 731 F.3d 20, 23 (1st Cir. 2013).
The interstate stalking convictions follow upon Benjamin Lee's turbulent relationship with his then-wife, Tawny Lee, who had left him in Missouri, and her boyfriend, Timothy Mann, with whom she
lived in Maine. Because two Lees are involved, we use their first names.
Tawny met Benjamin in Colorado around 1970, when she was eight. She began dating Mann when she was 16. After Mann left to work on a family farm, he and Tawny separated, and Tawny began dating Benjamin. Tawny continued a friendship with Mann, angering Benjamin, which eventually caused Tawny to distance herself from Mann. Tawny's mother and a friend testified that Benjamin was controlling and verbally abusive toward Tawny.
One incident occurred around 1979. Benjamin drove up to a car containing Tawny, her brother, her sister-in-law, and Mann, whom Tawny had previously dated. Benjamin approached the car, opened the driver's side door, pushed the driver's seat forward, pulled Tawny out of the car by her clothing, pushed her into his car, and drove away. Tawny testified that, while driving away, Benjamin told her " if he couldn't have [Tawny], no one could." Tawny stayed with Benjamin because she " feared what he could possibly do or would do." They married in the late 1970s, eventually having two children. Six months after the 1979 car incident, Tawny and Benjamin argued. Tawny ran out of their home to the end of the street, where Benjamin grabbed her by the hand and pulled her back into the apartment where they lived.
Tawny testified that Benjamin subjected her to near daily verbal abuse for the duration of their marriage. According to the Presentence Investigation Report, they divorced in 1993.
Tawny returned to Benjamin when he told her he had " people" watching Mann's house, where Tawny spent time. Tawny and Benjamin moved together from Colorado to Missouri. In 2001, the couple remarried, so Benjamin could have back surgery while covered by Tawny's insurance. Benjamin continued to abuse Tawny, verbally and sometimes physically.
On July 5, 2010, Tawny picked up medication for Benjamin, then picked her son up from college before returning home. On returning home, Benjamin berated Tawny for failing to drop the medicine off with Benjamin first, and when Tawny tried to flee, Benjamin hit her with his cane. Tawny's daughter called the police, but Tawny did not press charges.
In the fall of 2011, Tawny reconnected with Mann through Facebook. Around the same time, she testified that she also became upset at Benjamin's " associat[ion] with people that [Tawny] felt had extreme poor moral conduct." The couple argued, and Tawny repeatedly threatened to leave Benjamin. In December 2011, Tawny made plans to leave.
In February 2012, Benjamin broke his back in an automobile accident. He was hospitalized for two weeks, and Tawny cared for him at home for six weeks.
In April 2012, Tawny left Benjamin and moved with Mann to Maine. In the ensuing months, Benjamin searched for Tawny, emailing her 300 times and calling relatives. Some of the emails contained threats toward Mann and threats to " [n]ail [Tawny's] head on the wall." Tawny's mother filed a police report after Benjamin left her angry messages accusing her of hiding Tawny.
The Lees communicated by phone and email, with Benjamin blaming his behavior on his medications. Tawny insisted that Benjamin leave her alone, but Benjamin threatened that he would find her when able and that the police would not be able to prevent him from ...