U.S. v. Reid, No. CR.A. 02-10013-WGY.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
Writing for the CourtYoung
Citation206 F.Supp.2d 132
PartiesUNITED STATES of America v. Richard C. REID, Defendant.
Docket NumberNo. CR.A. 02-10013-WGY.
Decision Date11 June 2002
206 F.Supp.2d 132
UNITED STATES of America
v.
Richard C. REID, Defendant.
No. CR.A. 02-10013-WGY.
United States District Court, D. Massachusetts.
June 11, 2002.

Page 133

Stephen G. Huggard, Washington, DC, for U.S.

Owen S. Walker, Office of the Federal Defender, Tamar R. Birckhead, Federal Defender Office, Boston, MA, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

YOUNG, Chief Judge.


I. Introduction

Is an airplane a "mass transportation vehicle" as that phrase is used in section 801 of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, Pub.L. No. 107-56, 115 Stat. 272, 374-76 (codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1993) ("section 1993"), a comprehensive anti-terrorism law enacted in the wake of September 11. That is the question raised by Richard C. Reid ("Reid"), who is accused of attempting to detonate an explosive device in his shoe while aboard an international flight from Paris to Miami that was diverted to Boston after his attempt was foiled by the flight crew and other passengers. If the answer to this question is no, as Reid suggests, then Count Nine of the indictment against him, which alleges that he attempted to "wreck, set fire to, and disable a mass transportation vehicle," in violation of section 1993, see Indictment at 11,1 must be dismissed.

II. Background

The charges against Reid arise out of an incident on December 22, 2001, on American Airlines Flight 63 ("Flight 63"). According to Magistrate Judge Dein's Memorandum and Order dated December 28, 2001 [Docket No. 3] regarding probable cause and the government's motion to detain Reid, there is probable cause to believe the following facts:

Flight 63 was en route from Paris to Miami until Reid created a disturbance on board that caused the aircraft to be diverted to Boston. After one of the flight attendants smelled what she thought was a match, she observed Reid place a match in his mouth. She alerted the captain over

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the intercom system to what she had seen, and when she returned a few moments later, she saw Reid light another match. According to the flight attendant, Reid appeared to be trying to light the inner tongue of his sneaker, from which a wire was protruding. The attendant tried to stop Reid from lighting his sneaker, but he shoved her into the bulkhead and pushed her to the floor. She got up and ran to get water, at which point a second flight attendant tried to stop Reid. Reid bit the second attendant on the thumb. Shortly thereafter, the first flight attendant returned and threw water in Reid's face. At this point, several passengers came to the aid of the flight attendants and restrained Reid for the duration of the flight. They also injected him with sedatives that were on board the aircraft.

Preliminary laboratory analysis has revealed that both of Reid's sneakers contained "a `functioning improvised explosive device,' i.e., `a homemade bomb.'" Dein Order at 4. Had the sneakers been placed against the wall of the aircraft and detonated, they might have been able to blow a hole in the fuselage, potentially causing the aircraft to crash.

III. Discussion

In relevant parts, section 1993 states: "whoever willfully wrecks, derails, sets fire to, or disables a mass transportation vehicle . . . [or] attempts, threatens, or conspires to do any of the aforesaid acts, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both." 18 U.S.C. § 1993(a)(1), (a)(8). The phrase "mass transportation" is defined by a cross-reference to section 5302(a)(7) of Title 49 of the United States Code ("section 5302"), "except that the term shall include schoolbus, charter, and sightseeing transportation." 18 U.S.C. § 1993(c)(5). Section 5302 defines "mass transportation" as "transportation by a conveyance that provides regular and continuing general or special transportation to the public." 49 U.S.C. § 5302(a)(7). In contrast to the phrase "mass transportation," the word "vehicle" is given no explicit definition in section 1993, nor is it defined in section 5302.

Reid argues that an airplane is neither a "vehicle" nor engaged in "mass transportation," as those words are used in section 1993. The Court addresses these arguments in turn, but first it considers an argument made by Reid that section 1993 does not provide a punishment for attempt offenses.

A. Attempt Liability Under Section 1993

Section 1993 enumerates a series of eight prohibited acts involving mass transportation providers. The final category punishes a person who "willfully attempts, threatens, or conspires to do any of the aforesaid acts." 18 U.S.C. § 1993(a)(8). The statute also contains a punishment provision, which states that an offender

shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, if such act is committed, or in the case of a threat or conspiracy such act would be committed, on, against, or affecting a mass transportation provider engaged in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, or if in the course of committing such act, that person travels or communicates across a State line in order to commit such act, or transports materials across a State line in aid of the commission of such act.

Id. § 1993(a) (emphasis added).

Reid argues that the penalty provision does not apply to attempts because it fails to mention the term "attempt," even though it does mention the words "threat" and "conspiracy," which are grouped together

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with attempts in subsection (a)(8). Reid also contends that the phrase "such act" in the punishment provision of section 1993 refers only to completed acts enumerated in subsections (a)(1) through (a)(7), and not to the inchoate offenses proscribed in subsection (a)(8), including attempts. This is significant, according to Reid, because it means that an attempt, rather than being punished as a committed act, could only be punished if it was mentioned, along with threats and conspiracies, as an act that could be punished if it "would be committed." Because it is not so mentioned along with threats and conspiracies, it is not subject to punishment under section 1993.

According to Reid, if "such act" is construed to apply to attempt offenses, portions of the punishment provision will be rendered superfluous. For instance, if "such act" is read to include those acts enumerated in subsection eight (the inchoate offenses), then "such act" would include threatening and conspiring. But because threats and conspiracies are already enumerated separately following "such act" in the punishment provision, reading that phrase to comprise threats and conspiracies would make the explicit reference to those offenses gratuitous. Additionally, if "such act" embraces attempts, the requirement that "in the course of committing such act, that person travel[] or communicate[] across a State line in order to commit such act" might become meaningless, because one does not travel or communicate across state lines in order to commit an attempt, but rather to commit the crime itself. In Reid's view, reading section 1993 in this manner would offend the principle of statutory construction that courts should "disfavor interpretations of statutes that render language superfluous," Conn. Nat'l Bank v. Germain, 503 U.S. 249, 253, 112 S.Ct. 1146, 117 L.Ed.2d 391 (1992); accord Atlantic Fish Spotters Ass'n v. Evans, 206 F.Supp.2d 81, 85 (D.Mass.2002).

While it is true that courts should strive to avoid reading a statute in a way that renders some of the language within it unnecessary, courts should strive harder to avoid reading a statute in a way that renders it nonsensical. Reid's proposed construction of section 1993 would lead to an absurd result: an act that is clearly proscribed by the express language of the statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1993(a)(8), would not be punishable under that statute, even though the statute establishes a punishment for every other act proscribed therein. The possibility that reading the statute to punish attempts would render other words within the statute gratuitous2 does

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not alone compel the Court read the statute as Reid proposes, for it is well understood that "[r]edundancies across statutes are not unusual events in drafting," Germain, 503 U.S. at 253, 112 S.Ct. 1146. This Court is of opinion that it is more important in this case to read the statute so as to avoid an absurd result, see United States v. X-Citement Video, 513 U.S. 64, 68-69, 115 S.Ct. 464, 130 L.Ed.2d 372 (1994), one that would be contrary to the plain purpose of the statute, than it is to make every word of the statute meaningful. The Court therefore rejects Reid's argument that Count Nine should be dismissed on the ground that section 1993 provides no punishment for attempt crimes.

B. Is an Aircraft Engaged in "Mass Transportation"?

Reid next argues that aircraft such as Flight 63 are not engaged in "mass transportation" as that phrase is used in section 1993. According to Reid, "mass transportation" "connotes buses, trolleys, subways, commuter trains, ferries — the means by which the mass of people, particularly in congested areas, get from one place to another in public conveyances," Def.'s Mot. at 4, particularly in light of the fact that the definition of "mass transportation" found in section 1993 is a cross-reference to a portion of the United States Code that addresses urban mass transit, id. at 4-5. The government counters that the language in section 1993 and the cross-reference defining "mass transportation" so clearly encompasses aircraft that the Court need not concern itself with the nature of the portion of the United States Code in which the cross-reference is located.

As noted earlier, the phrase "mass transportation" is defined principally by a cross-reference to section 5302(a)(7) of Title 49 of the United States Code ("section 5302").3 Section 5302 defines "mass transportation" as "transportation by a conveyance that provides regular and continuing general or special transportation to the public." 49...

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4 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Reid, No. 03-1159.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 27, 2004
    ...wrecking of a mass transportation vehicle, 18 U.S.C. § 1993(a) — was dismissed by the district court. See United States v. Reid, 206 F.Supp.2d 132, 142 2. Reid's challenge to his criminal conviction is the subject of a separate appeal to this court. See United States v. Reid, No. 03-1198 (1......
  • U.S. v. Reid, No. CRIM.A. 02-10013-WGY.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • July 26, 2002
    ...under 28 C.F.R. § 501.3. 5. The allegations are detailed at length in this Court's first opinion in the case, United States v. Reid, 206 F.Supp.2d 132, 133 (D. Mass. 2002) [Docket No. 72], available at http:/ /pacer. 6. See also id. at 10 n. 14 ("Despite the broad-side language, remember th......
  • National Steel Car, Ltd. v. Canadian Pacific Ry., No. 03-1256.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • January 29, 2004
    ...Dictionary 343 (1993). This definition controls our interpretation of "vehicle" in section 272, cf. United States v. Reid, 206 F.Supp.2d 132, 138 (D.Mass.2002) (looking to the Dictionary Act to define "vehicle" as the term is used in the USA Patriot Act of 2001); P.J. Federico, "Commentary ......
  • U.S. v. Reid, No. CR.A. 02-10013-WGY.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • July 17, 2002
    ...to the filing of criminal charges against Reid, see this Court's opinion in United States v. Reid, No. 02-10013-WGY, slip op. at 2-3, 206 F.Supp.2d 132, ___ - ___ (D.Mass.2002) [Docket No. 72], available at http://pacer. mad.uscourts.gov/dc/opinions/young/pdf/ 2. This aspect of the motion w......
4 cases
  • U.S. v. Reid, No. 03-1159.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 27, 2004
    ...wrecking of a mass transportation vehicle, 18 U.S.C. § 1993(a) — was dismissed by the district court. See United States v. Reid, 206 F.Supp.2d 132, 142 2. Reid's challenge to his criminal conviction is the subject of a separate appeal to this court. See United States v. Reid, No. 03-1198 (1......
  • U.S. v. Reid, No. CRIM.A. 02-10013-WGY.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • July 26, 2002
    ...under 28 C.F.R. § 501.3. 5. The allegations are detailed at length in this Court's first opinion in the case, United States v. Reid, 206 F.Supp.2d 132, 133 (D. Mass. 2002) [Docket No. 72], available at http:/ /pacer. 6. See also id. at 10 n. 14 ("Despite the broad-side language, remember th......
  • National Steel Car, Ltd. v. Canadian Pacific Ry., No. 03-1256.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • January 29, 2004
    ...Dictionary 343 (1993). This definition controls our interpretation of "vehicle" in section 272, cf. United States v. Reid, 206 F.Supp.2d 132, 138 (D.Mass.2002) (looking to the Dictionary Act to define "vehicle" as the term is used in the USA Patriot Act of 2001); P.J. Federico, "Commentary ......
  • U.S. v. Reid, No. CR.A. 02-10013-WGY.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • July 17, 2002
    ...to the filing of criminal charges against Reid, see this Court's opinion in United States v. Reid, No. 02-10013-WGY, slip op. at 2-3, 206 F.Supp.2d 132, ___ - ___ (D.Mass.2002) [Docket No. 72], available at http://pacer. mad.uscourts.gov/dc/opinions/young/pdf/ 2. This aspect of the motion w......

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