471 U.S. 858 (1985), 84-435, Russell v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 84-435
Citation:471 U.S. 858, 105 S.Ct. 2455, 85 L.Ed.2d 829, 53 U.S.L.W. 4652
Party Name:Russell v. United States
Case Date:June 03, 1985
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 858

471 U.S. 858 (1985)

105 S.Ct. 2455, 85 L.Ed.2d 829, 53 U.S.L.W. 4652

Russell

v.

United States

No. 84-435

United States Supreme Court

June 3, 1985

Argued April 24, 1985

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE

SEVENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Title 18 U.S.C. § 844(i) makes it a crime to maliciously damage or destroy, or attempt to damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, "any building . . . used . . . in any activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce." Petitioner, who was earning rental income from a two-unit apartment building and treated it as business property for tax purposes, was convicted for violating § 844(i) after he unsuccessfully attempted to set fire to the building, and the conviction was affirmed on appeal. Both the District Court and the Court of Appeals rejected his contention that the building was not commercial or business property, and therefore was not capable of being the subject of an offense under § 844(i).

Held: Section 844(i) applies to petitioner's apartment building. The language of the statute expresses an intent by Congress to exercise its full power under the Commerce Clause, and the legislative history indicates that Congress at least intended to protect all "business property." The rental of real estate is unquestionably an activity that affects commerce for purposes of the statute, and the congressional power to regulate the class of activities that constitute the rental market for real estate includes the power to regulate individual activity within that class, such as the local rental of an apartment unit. Pp. 859-862.

738 F.2d 825, affirmed.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

STEVENS, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented is whether 18 U.S.C. § 844(i) applies to a two-unit apartment [105 S.Ct. 2456] building that is used as rental property.

Page 859

Petitioner owns an apartment building located at 4530 South Union, Chicago, Illinois. He earned rental income from it and treated it as business property for tax purposes. In early 1983, he made an unsuccessful attempt to set fire to the building,1 and was consequently indicted for violating § 844(i). Following a bench trial, petitioner was convicted and sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment. The District Court2 and the Court of Appeals3 both rejected his contention that the building was not commercial or business property, and therefore was not capable of being the subject of an offense under § 844(i).

Section 844(i) uses broad language to define the offense. It provides:

Whoever maliciously damages or destroys, or attempts to damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, any building, vehicle, or other real or personal property used in interstate or foreign commerce or in any activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce shall be imprisoned for not more than ten years or fined not more than $10,000, or both. . . .

The reference to "any building . . . used . . . in any activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce" expresses an intent by Congress to exercise its full power under the Commerce Clause.4

Page 860

The legislative history indicates that Congress intended to exercise its full power to protect "business property."5 Moreover, after considering whether the bill as originally introduced would cover bombings [105 S.Ct. 2457] of police stations or churches,6 the bill was revised to eliminate the words "for

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