287 F.3d 811 (9th Cir. 2002), 00-30348, U.S. v. Alexander

Docket Nº:00-30348
Citation:287 F.3d 811
Party Name:U.S. v. Alexander
Case Date:April 19, 2002
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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287 F.3d 811 (9th Cir. 2002)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


James Douglas ALEXANDER, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 00-30348.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

April 19, 2002

Argued and Submitted March 7, 2002.

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Robert L. Stephens, Jr., Southside Law Center, Billings, MT, for the defendant-appellant.

Carl E. Rostad, Assistant United States Attorney, Great Falls, MT, for the plaintiff-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Montana; Jack D. Shanstrom, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CR-98-00099-JDS.

Before: ALARCON, and SILVERMAN, Circuit Judges, and TEILBORG, [*] District Judge.

ALARCON, Circuit Judge.

James Douglas Alexander appeals from the judgment of conviction, following a trial by a jury, of five counts of interstate communication of threats to injure others, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(c). He seeks reversal on the ground that his indictment and conviction were obtained in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and the attorney-client privilege. He further contends that he was prejudiced by certain evidentiary rulings.

Alexander also maintains that the district court erred in calculating his sentence. We affirm the judgment of conviction because we conclude that the district court did not err in ordering Alexander's former counsel to present evidence of threats of bodily harm made by Alexander during attorney-client communications regarding pending criminal proceedings. We also uphold the district court's sentencing decision.


In 1992, Alexander was a member of the State Bar of Montana. In that year, the

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Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Bar of Montana began investigations regarding alleged fraudulent representations made by Alexander to induce persons to pay him a retainer for his services in arranging the adoption of orphans from the Republic of Macedonia. The FBI's investigation resulted in the return of a federal mail and wire fraud indictment on June 18, 1997.

The Montana Supreme Court Commission on Practice's ("COP") inquiry into Alexander's alleged unethical behavior led to his disbarment. The COP investigation was conducted by Rockwood Brown, Gary Ryder, and Phillip Carter.

On October 24, 1997, the district court appointed Assistant Federal Defender Mark Werner ("Werner"), of the Federal Defenders of Montana, to represent Alexander on the mail and wire fraud charges. Werner was assisted by Russ Curry ("Curry"), an investigator for the Federal Defenders of Montana.

Alexander resided in Oklahoma following his pretrial release. He communicated with Werner and Curry over the telephone and by sending letters to Montana.

Between the fall of 1997 and June 4, 1998, Alexander made many threats to kill various individuals in his conversations with Werner and Curry. He threatened to harm Werner, Curry, Rockwood Brown, Gary Ryder, Phillip Carter, FBI Special Agent Scott Cruse, and Assistant United States Attorney Lori Harper. On one occasion he stated to Werner: "I have no problem coming in and killing half a dozen people, and taking them out, and I would testify to that in court."

On June 4, 1998, Curry reported to Werner that Alexander had stated in a telephone conversation that "he has only one wish, and that wish is to kill. To not only kill, but also to watch people being tortured before he kills them." Concerned for his own safety and that of others, Werner wrote a letter on the same date to a pretrial services officer of the United States Probation Office in which he stated: "I feel compelled to disclose to you that Alexander has stated threats against various individuals. In those threats he has expressed his intent to inflict harm and death."

On June 12, 1998, Werner filed a motion to withdraw as Alexander's attorney of record. On or about the same date, Werner was served with a grand jury subpoena duces tecum. He was ordered to appear before the grand jury on June 17, 1998 to testify regarding the threats made by Alexander, and to bring his office files and records relating to his communications with Alexander.

When Werner appeared before the grand jury, he asserted the attorney-client privilege on Alexander's behalf. The Government moved for an order compelling Werner to testify and to comply with the subpoena duces tecum. The district court granted the motion and ordered Werner to testify concerning the threats. He was also admonished, however, not to reveal any communication with Alexander that was not related to his threats. Werner redacted all information from his files and records that was not directly related to the threats.

Werner's testimony before the grand jury was limited by the prosecutor's questions to the threats uttered by Alexander. The grand jury indicted Alexander on one count of obstruction of justice and eight counts of communicating interstate threats to injure others. 1 The indictment was

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filed on August 25, 1998. The earlier indictment resulting from the alleged adoption-fraud charges was dismissed on August 27, 1998.

Werner and Curry testified at trial regarding Alexander's threats. Werner also testified that he informed Alexander that threatening persons with bodily harm was a criminal act. Alexander was convicted of Count II, telephone communication of threats to injure Werner; Count VI, telephone threats to injure Curry; Count VII, communication in interstate commerce of threats to Curry to injure Werner; Count VIII, threats made to Curry in interstate commerce to injure Rockwood Brown; and Count IX, threats made to Curry in telephone communications threatening to injure Gary Ryder. He was acquitted of the remaining counts. He was sentenced to serve 63 months in prison.


We note at the outset of our discussion of Alexander's contentions that he does not argue that the evidence was insufficient to persuade a rational trier of fact beyond a reasonable doubt that he made threats to harm others in his communication with his attorney. Instead, Alexander seeks reversal of the judgment of conviction and dismissal of the indictment on the ground that his attorney violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and the attorney-client privilege by testifying before the grand jury and at trial, and disclosing his files...

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