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United States v. Corbett

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

April 29, 2014

LARRY CORBETT, Defendant-Appellant,

Argued, November 25, 2013

As Amended May 2, 2014.

Petition for certiorari filed at, 07/28/2014

Larry Corbett appeals his federal kidnapping conviction after bench trial in the District Court of Connecticut (Droney, J.). Corbett argues that the trial evidence was insufficient to prove that he " held" his kidnapping victim against the victim's will, as required by statute. We disagree. There was sufficient evidence to conclude that Corbett lured his victim into a van for the purpose of robbing him, and then kept the victim confined in the vehicle--whether by physical force, psychological intimidation, or trickery--until Corbett had a chance to kill him. Corbett's remaining challenges are without merit. We, therefore, AFFIRM the kidnapping conviction and sentence.

H. GORDON HALL (Robert M. Spector, on the brief), Assistant United States Attorneys for David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, New Haven, CT, for Appellee.

CRAIG A. RAABE (Kori Termine Wisneski, on the brief), Robinson & Cole LLP, Hartford, CT, for Defendant-Appellant.

Before: KATZMANN, Chief Judge, WINTER, CALABRESI, Circuit Judges.


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CALABRESI, Circuit Judge

This case presents a question that is new to our circuit: what evidence is sufficient under the Lindbergh Law, 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a), to convict a defendant of " holding" a victim against the victim's will? Other circuits differ as to whether a defendant who first " takes" control of his victim by " decoy" or trick must intend to back up his pretense with physical or psychological force in order to " hold" the unwilling victim under the statute. Compare United States v. Boone, 959 F.2d 1550, 1555 & n.5 (11th Cir. 1992) (requiring that the defendant " ha[ve] the willingness and intent to use physical or psychological force to complete the kidnapping in the event that his deception fail[s]" ), with United States v. Hoog, 504 F.2d 45, 50-51 (8th Cir. 1974) (finding the evidence to be sufficient where the defendant promised the victim a ride and then kept her in his car by inventing an emergency detour). We need not join either side of the split to decide this case. Here, the evidence was sufficient that Corbett, after tricking his victim into a minivan,

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intended to continue holding the victim against his will--and so Corbett did--before robbing and killing the victim, and leaving his body along the road.

We therefore AFFIRM the kidnapping conviction and sentence of the District Court.


A. Kidnapping and Homicide of George McPherson

The following facts, relevant to this appeal, are presented in the light most favorable to the Government. See, e.g., United States v. Gaines, 295 F.3d 293, 299-300 (2d Cir. 2002) (citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979)).

The morning of January 14, 2008, Larry Corbett borrowed his wife's minivan and drove from Bridgeport, Connecticut to the Bronx, New York, where Corbett planned to buy 27 pounds of marijuana from George McPherson for $27,000. Corbett had done business with McPherson before, albeit on a smaller scale. Corbett arrived at McPherson's house early, and McPherson suggested he get breakfast nearby while McPherson finished preparing the marijuana for sale. McPherson was stalling. In fact, according to Neville Fuller, who was with McPherson that morning, McPherson had not been able to round up what he had promised Corbett, and he was scrambling to locate more marijuana. By the time Corbett returned to McPherson's house, McPherson had managed to secure only about 9-10 pounds.

McPherson's habit was to conduct all drug business within his apartment, located in an attached townhouse on Tiemann Avenue, a dead-end residential street. Corbett, however, convinced McPherson to bring the marijuana out to Corbett's van, explaining that he " didn't feel safe coming to [McPherson's] house" because Corbett had seen two suspicious cars--one resembling an unmarked police car--parked on McPherson's block near the wooded dead end. Carrying a duffle bag containing what Neville Fuller estimated to be between 9-10 pounds of marijuana, McPherson left his home and entered the minivan.[1] Fuller " peeped" out the second floor window to watch. Corbett's van was parked directly in front of McPherson's home, but facing away from the dead end so that the driver's side was on the left-hand side of the street, facing any oncoming traffic. Fuller described it as a " get away park," explaining that the van would not need to turn around at the dead end in order to " move out fast." A few seconds after his first peep, Fuller looked again, and the van was gone. Fuller testified that he had not heard any gunshots, squealing tires, argumentative voices, or slamming doors before the van drove off.

Around 11:20 a.m., a Greenwich, Connecticut resident reported finding McPherson's body dumped on the side of Sterling Road. She told police that the body had not been there when she left her home for a 10:30 a.m. exercise class. Home security camera footage caught Corbett's minivan backing down Sterling Road at 11:15 a.m. and driving off a minute later. McPherson had been shot twice in the back with a semi-automatic and robbed of his cell phones, wallet, and the duffel of marijuana.

Fifteen days later, Greenwich police arrested Corbett. Detective Timothy Hilderbrand told ...

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