474 F.3d 1159 (9th Cir. 2007), 05-50124, United States v. Arnt

Docket Nº:05-50124, 05-50292.
Citation:474 F.3d 1159
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Latasha Lorraine ARNT, a/k/a Latasha Lorraine Simpson and Latasha L. Cummings, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:January 25, 2007
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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474 F.3d 1159 (9th Cir. 2007)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Latasha Lorraine ARNT, a/k/a Latasha Lorraine Simpson and Latasha L. Cummings, Defendant-Appellant.

Nos. 05-50124, 05-50292.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

January 25, 2007

Argued and Submitted November 13, 2006

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Jonathan D. Libby, Deputy Federal Public Defender, Los Angeles, CA, for the defendant-appellant.

Jerry A. Behnke, Assistant United States Attorney, Riverside, CA, for the plaintiff-appellee.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Central District of California; Percy Anderson, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CR-03-00523-PA.

Before B. FLETCHER, FERNANDEZ, and GRABER, Circuit Judges.


BETTY B. FLETCHER, Circuit Judge.

A jury convicted LaTasha Lorraine Arnt of committing voluntary manslaughter while accompanying the Armed Forces of the United States in Turkey, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1112(a), 3261(a). The court sentenced her to eight years in prison and ordered her to pay restitution to the victim's family.

On appeal, Arnt raises several challenges to her conviction and sentence. She asserts that the indictment failed to allege an essential element and challenges several aspects of her conviction, including the sufficiency of the evidence and the court's refusal to give an involuntary manslaughter instruction. Finally, she argues that her sentence is unreasonable and contends that the restitution order is illegal because it defines "victim" too broadly.

We reject her challenge to the indictment, which was sufficient to identify the

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jurisdictional basis of the prosecution. Similarly, we reject her challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, which provided an adequate basis to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Arnt was accompanying the Armed Forces outside the United States at the time of her offense. We agree with Arnt, however, that the district court committed reversible error in refusing to give an involuntary manslaughter instruction.1


LaTasha Arnt fatally stabbed her husband, Staff Sergeant Matthias Anthony Arnt, III, during a domestic dispute on Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, where SSgt. Arnt served as a member of the security forces unit. The government charged Arnt with murder, asserting jurisdiction under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000 (MEJA), 18 U.S.C. §§ 3261-3267. After a jury deadlocked over whether to convict, the court declared a mistrial. She was re-tried; a second jury acquitted her of murder but convicted her of the lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter.

Arnt filed a timely notice of appeal. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.§ 1291.


Sufficiency of the Indictment

Congress enacted MEJA in response to a jurisdictional gap created by host nations' reluctance to prosecute crimes against Americans committed by civilians accompanying the Armed Forces outside the United States. H.R.Rep. No. 106-778(I)(2000), 2000 WL 1008725, at *5. To close this gap, MEJA creates federal jurisdiction over those who commit felonies while "accompanying the Armed Forces outside the United States." 18 U.S.C. § 3261(a)(1). 2 A person is "accompanying the Armed Forces outside the United States," if she satisfies three requirements: she must be "(A)[a] dependent of ... a member of the Armed Forces; (B) residing with such member ... outside the United States; and (C) not a national of or ordinarily resident in the host nation." 18 U.S.C. § 3267(2).3

Arnt challenges the indictment's failure to allege that she resided with SSgt. Arnt. She contends that § 3267(2)(B)'s residency requirement is an essential element both to confer federal jurisdiction under MEJA and to fulfill the indictment's purpose of

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giving her notice of the elements of the crime with which she was charged.

Because Arnt first challenged her indictment after trial, we review the indictment for plain error, see United States v. Velasco-Medina, 305 F.3d 839, 846 (9th Cir. 2002), "liberally constru[ing] the indictment in favor of validity." United States v. Chesney, 10 F.3d 641, 643 (9th Cir. 1993). The key question as to the sufficiency of an indictment "is whether an error or omission in an indictment worked to the prejudice of the accused.... Absent such prejudice, the conviction may not be reversed for any omission in the indictment." Velasco-Medina, 305 F.3d at 847 (internal quotation marks omitted).

Reviewing for plain error, we find this indictment adequate. A defendant is not prejudiced where her counsel has notice of the omitted element and the jury is properly instructed regarding the missing element. Id. Arnt's counsel had notice of the residency requirement from...

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