879 F.3d 669 (5th Cir. 2018), 17-10117, United States v. Murra
|Citation:||879 F.3d 669|
|Opinion Judge:||JAMES E. GRAVES, JR., Circuit Judge:|
|Party Name:||UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Olga Sandra MURRA, also known as Sandra Olga Capon-Meneses, Defendant-Appellant.|
|Attorney:||Andrew O. Wirmani, Esq., James Wesley Hendrix, Joseph Andrew Magliolo, Esq., Assistant U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Attorneys Office, Northern District of Texas, Dallas, TX, for Plaintiff-Appellee. Robert N. Udashen, Tiffany Alex Talamantez, Sorrels, Udashen & Anton, Dallas, TX, for Defendant-Appellant....|
|Judge Panel:||Before DENNIS, CLEMENT, and GRAVES, Circuit Judges.|
|Case Date:||January 15, 2018|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit|
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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas
Andrew O. Wirmani, Esq., James Wesley Hendrix, Joseph Andrew Magliolo, Esq., Assistant U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Attorneys Office, Northern District of Texas, Dallas, TX, for Plaintiff-Appellee.
Robert N. Udashen, Tiffany Alex Talamantez, Sorrels, Udashen & Anton, Dallas, TX, for Defendant-Appellant.
Ashley Charles Parrish, Esq., Christopher Robert Healy, Esq., King & Spalding, L.L.P., Washington, DC, Sara A. Schretenthaler, Holland & Knight, L.L.P., Dallas, TX, for Amicus Curiae.
Before DENNIS, CLEMENT, and GRAVES, Circuit Judges.
JAMES E. GRAVES, JR., Circuit Judge:
The earlier opinion issued January 12, 2018, is withdrawn by the panel, and the following is issued in its place:
In August 2016, Defendant-Appellant Olga Murra was convicted by a jury of two counts of forced labor, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1589(a), and two counts of harboring an illegal alien for profit, in violation of 8 U.S.C. § § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii) and 1324(a)(1)(B)(i), based on conduct toward her half-sister Vania Rodriguez and quasi-adopted family member Ingrid Guerrero. The district court sentenced her to seventy-two months imprisonment. Murra now appeals from that conviction and sentence, claiming that (1) the district court erred by admitting the testimony of the Governments expert witness; (2) the Government prosecutor improperly commented on her decision not to testify; (3) the district court erred in ruling that Mosaic Family Services, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provided both counseling and legal services to the victims, did not have to produce documents that Mosaic contends are protected by psychotherapist-patient or attorney-client privilege; and (4) the district court erred by imposing a " vulnerable victim" enhancement to her sentence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
According to the evidence and testimony presented at trial, Murra used psychological manipulation, mental and physical abuse, and threats of abuse to coerce both Vania and Ingrid to work for her without pay for over a decade.
Around 1985, while living in Mexico, Murra and her family (her children and now-deceased husband) met Ingrid Guerrero and her three sisters— Tania, Yuriria, and Jehan— who were living apart from their mother and father because of a tumultuous home life. A few years into their relationship with Murra, the Guerreros began attending church at Murras home, with Murra " preaching" and leading the services. Murra later told the sisters that they should move out of their house and live with her, which they did.
Shortly thereafter, Murra began to inflict physical and psychological abuse on the Guerreros. Murra would hit them with a wooden paddle almost daily as punishment for being " obscene" or " rebellious," or if they didnt agree with some-thing she said. She made Ingrid sit in baths of ice water because she wasnt " pure." She forced the sisters to sleep in the laundry room, at times for up to a week, because she felt they needed to repent for their " sins." She would slap the sisters, cut their hair, and tell them " nobody will love you."
Murra told the sisters that " she was a prophet from God." Based on this, they believed that whatever Murra said came
directly from God. They were ordered to cut off ties with their family, which they did— leaving them completely dependent on Murra.
Vania was in medical school during the time Murra lived in Mexico. Vania and Murra used to communicate via letter, and at one point the content of Murras letters became increasingly more religious. Murra claimed she was a prophet of God and would communicate prophecies to Vania. One of Murras " prophecies" was that Vania had to end the relationship with the man she was dating because the marriage would be without Gods consent or approval; she also told Vania that the man could beat or kill her, and that if they had a child together the child would be sick. Vania left the man as a result and returned to Mexico. Vania never practiced medicine because Murra told her that God did not want her to do so. While living in Mexico, Vania witnessed Murras nightly paddling of the Guerreros. Murra instructed Vania to paddle the sisters or risk being punished herself. Murra also occasionally paddled Vania.
Ingrid, her sisters, and Vania were forced to work in Murras husbands factory making jeans five or six days a week. And while they were ostensibly paid for their work, all of their wages went to Murra.
Claiming that " God had told her to come to the promise[d] land," Murra— who is a U.S. citizen— moved with her children to El Paso, Texas, in 1997. The Guerreros stayed behind in Mexico to work in the jeans factory, and Ingrid took care of Murras husband for no compensation. Murra facilitated the Guerreros illegal passage into the United States in 1998. Vania entered the country illegally a year later. While in the United States, Murra retained Vania and Ingrids identification documents and birth certificates. The Guerreros did not have beds in the house in El Paso and had to sleep on the floor or, as punishment, in the garage. Ingrid delivered flyers and cleaned houses for Murra, who retained all of the money Ingrid earned.
Murra moved the group from El Paso to Fort Worth in 1999. Once in Fort Worth, Ingrid and her sisters delivered flyers advertising a house-cleaning service, and they and Vania began cleaning houses. They cleaned three or four houses a day, six days a week. Clients would pay by cash or by checks made out to Murra, and Murra would retain all the money they earned. They would not hold back from Murra the money they were given by clients out of fear of punishment. Ingrid also was forced to obtain employment as a cashier at McDonalds and Wal-Mart under a false name and using false identification documents that Murra had supplied. Oftentimes, Ingrid would clean houses and work as a cashier on the same day— getting only four hours of sleep at night.
During the twelve years Ingrid lived in Fort Worth with Murra, she never had a bed or bedroom; she was forced to sleep on the floor. Murra continued to send the Guerreros to sleep in the garage as punishment, as she had done in El Paso. When confined to the garage, which was neither heated nor cooled, the Guerreros would have to request permission to use the bathroom.
Murra constantly reminded the Guerreros that they were in the country illegally and that they had no papers. Vania testified that she eventually confronted Murra about her treatment of the Guerrero sisters; Murra responded by subjecting Vania to the same treatment from then on. Murra threatened Vania with immigration consequences,
as well, telling her she had nowhere to go because " immigration is going to ... grab you, they are going to get you and then they are going to put you in this casket and they are going to bury you alive." Vania testified that she was so indoctrinated by Murra that she believed that federal immigration officials would treat an illegal alien in that way.
Murra continued to exert religious-based influence over Vania and the Guerreros. The Government proffered a tape recording that Murra made concerning the victims purported religious failings. On the recording, Murra stated (translated from Spanish), " Im good before God because I speak the will of God." She accused the women of existing in a " vicious circle of mistakes and mistakes and self-pity and laziness" and told them they were destined for hell (an accusation that Ingrid testified Murra made every day during the years she lived with Murra).
Over time, several of Murras house cleaning clients began to notice signs of abuse, and the victims confided in them about Murras treatment. Alicia Richardson testified to her belief that Vania lost at least thirty pounds during her employment and that she looked " very thin and frail" and " unhealthy." Vania eventually told Richardson that she was not being fed, that she would not be paid for her cleaning work, and that Murra maintained her immigration papers, which caused Vania fear regarding her immigration status. Richardson offered to have Vania come live with her family, and she and her husband would pay Vania to watch their children, but Vania was " scared to death" that Murra would have her sent back to Mexico. Marsia Blackwell, another client, also...
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