USA. Balint & Ketchum, s. 98-3130

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore Posner, Chief Judge, and Cudahy and Kanne; Cudahy
Citation201 F.3d 928
Parties(7th Cir. 2000) United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Daniel J. Balint and James A. Ketchum, Defendants-Appellants. & 98-3143
Docket NumberNos. 98-3130,s. 98-3130
Decision Date11 January 2000

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201 F.3d 928 (7th Cir. 2000)
United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Daniel J. Balint and James A. Ketchum, Defendants-Appellants.
Nos. 98-3130 & 98-3143
In the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Argued September 13, 1999
Decided January 11, 2000

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. No. 94-CR-140--Rudolph T. Randa, Judge.

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Copyrighted Material Omitted

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Before Posner, Chief Judge, and Cudahy and Kanne, Circuit Judges.

Cudahy, Circuit Judge.

At 5:30 a.m. on September 29, 1994, a brown Plymouth pulled up at the Wisconsin Women's Health Care Center in Milwaukee. It was parked to block the front entrance to the building. Inside, defendant James Ketchum and Michael Skott sat in a steel cage they had welded into the car. Defendant Daniel Balint had secured his head into a steel box affixed to the inside of the car; a hole had been cut in the bottom of the car, and his body extended out the hole to recline on the ground. Meanwhile, a blue Chevrolet pulled to a stop at the rear entrance to the clinic. In the driver's seat sat Robert Stambaugh, with his neck locked into a steel collar. The collar was secured to a pipe that had been welded to a clothes dryer, which in turn had been welded to the car frame. Inside the dryer sat George Wilson, whose

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neck was locked into a similar collar-and-pipe contraption. Wilson's legs and lower body reclined on the ground. Robert Braun sat in the back seat of the car, with his arm fastened into a steel pipe that had been welded to the car. Because two of the men were in effect suspended from the cars, police could not simply drive them away to clear the entrances to the clinic. Twenty-seven Milwaukee firefighters used power tools and blow torches to dismantle the interlocking cages and collars. Four hours after firefighters arrived on the scene, they were able to extricate the men and remove the cars from the clinic doors. By that time, twelve patients had been forced to cancel their appointments for reproductive health services.

I. Disposition Below

The six men were charged with violating 18 U.S.C. sec. 248(a)(1), known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (Access Act). The Access Act subjects violators to a maximum six- month imprisonment, a maximum $10,000 fine, or both. The procedural prelude to this appeal is complex. Balint and Skott consented to a bench trial before a magistrate judge. Wilson, Ketchum, Stambaugh and Braun requested trial before a district judge. Wilson, Ketchum and Stambaugh requested jury trial. Magistrate Judge Aaron Goodstein granted Balint and Skott's request for a magistrate trial and granted the remaining defendants' request for trial by a district court judge. District Judge Rudolph T. Randa overruled that decision and ordered all six defendants to stand trial together before the district court. Magistrate Judge Goodstein had also granted the motion of Wilson, Ketchum and Stambaugh for a jury trial; the government appealed this ruling to Judge Randa, who did not rule at that time.

Several motions to dismiss ensued. Balint moved to dismiss on the bases that the Access Act was unconstitutionally vague and that Congress had no authority under the Fourteenth Amendment or the Commerce Clause to adopt it. Ketchum also moved to dismiss the case on the Commerce Clause grounds. Judge Randa granted the defendants' motion to dismiss, finding passage of the Access Act to have exceeded Congress's power under the Commerce Clause. We overturned that holding in United States v. Wilson, 73 F.3d 675 (7th Cir. 1995). As a result, Judge Randa set the case for trial. In his pretrial orders he overturned Magistrate Goodstein's order granting a jury trial. Ketchum appeals this denial of a jury trial.

At the bench trial before Judge Randa, the defendants admitted they had erected the blockade. They each expressed their opposition to abortion, and their commitment to saving "pre- born babies." Order at 4. However, defendant Balint argued at trial and again on appeal that the government failed to prove he acted with the motive required to violate the Access Act. Balint also argued unsuccessfully below and reasserted on appeal that the Access Act is unconstitutionally vague and failed to give him adequate notice that his actions would trigger prosecution. The judge disagreed, and found all six defendants guilty on April 30, 1997. More than a year later, in August 1998, Judge Randa sentenced Balint and Ketchum each to time served and a $10 assessment. He also ordered the six defendants to pay $1,759.04 to the City of Milwaukee as restitution for the cost of the firefighters' rescue operation. The defendants were made jointly and severally liable for the full amount of the restitution. On April 3, 1999 defendant Michael Skott paid the restitution in full. The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin released the liens against Balint and Ketchum three days later. Both Balint and Ketchum appeal the restitution order.

To recap, Ketchum appeals the denial of his request for a jury trial. Balint appeals his conviction on the ground that the government presented insufficient evidence of his illegal motive. Balint also argues that the Access Act is unconstitutionally vague, thereby giving him inadequate notice that he was breaking the law. Ketchum adopts

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this argument on appeal, in accord with Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 28(i). Balint and Ketchum both appeal the restitution order.

II. Analysis

A. Sufficiency of the Evidence

The Access Act states that penalties are available against whomever:

by force or threat of force or by physical obstruction, intentionally injures, intimidates or interferes with or attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person because that person is or has been, or in order to intimidate such person or any other person or any class of persons from, obtaining or providing reproductive health services.

18 U.S.C. sec. 248(a)(1). Parsing this language, a violation of the Act has three elements. The first element is the use or threat of force or physical obstruction of a clinic. The district court found it "beyond dispute" that the defendants obstructed the entrance of the clinic. Order at 2. The Act's second element is that the obstruction intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere with or attempt to injure, intimidate or interfere with persons. The Act defines "interfere with" as "to restrict a person's freedom of movement." 18 U.S.C. sec. 248(e)(2). The district court found the facts "clearly show[ed] that the defendants intended their obstruction to prevent or attempt to prevent the entrance or egress of anyone to the building." Order at 2. Balint concedes the sufficiency of the evidence on elements one and two.

However, he complains that the government presented insufficient evidence on the Act's third element, which requires that the defendant's actions be taken "because . . . [the interfered-with] person is or has been, or in order to intimidate such person or any other person or class of persons from, obtaining or providing reproductive health services." 18 U.S.C. sec. 248(a)(1). The Access Act differs from most criminal statutes in requiring the government to prove the defendant's motive. Moreover, it requires different motives for different acts. To be found guilty of interference under the Act, as Balint was, the accused must be motivated because people are or have been obtaining or providing reproductive health services. Judge Randa stated that the defendants, "by admitting that their motive for obstructing the clinic was to protect pre-born babies from being killed in their mothers' wombs, admit to a motive proscribed by the statute." Order at 4. We understand this statement to mean that the judge found Balint was motivated by the possibility that abortions would take place in the near future on the day of the blockade.

Balint argues that the statute's temporal language associates guilt only with interference prompted by past provision of abortion services or present provision of abortion services. Interference prompted by a desire to prevent the future provision of services, he says, is not proscribed by the statute. He insists that when Congress criminalized interference with a person "because that person is . . . obtaining or providing reproductive health services," it barred interference only with abortions taking place contemporaneously with the protest. 18 U.S.C. sec. 248(a)(1) (emphasis added). In short, Balint would have us find that unless an abortion was actually in progress at the time the Plymouth drew to a stop in front of the clinic, he lacked the requisite motivation.

When we interpret a statute, we look first to its language. Pittway Corp. v. United States, 102 F.3d 932, 934 (7th Cir. 1996). If that language is plain, our only function is "'to enforce it according to its terms.'" United States v. Ron Pair Enters., Inc., 489 U.S. 235, 241 (1989) (quoting Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470, 485 (1917)). The plain meaning of a statute is conclusive unless "'literal application of a statute will produce a result demonstrably at odds with the intentions of its drafters.'" Ron Pair, 489 U.S. at 242 (quoting Griffin v. Oceanic Contractors, 458 U.S. 564,

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571 (1982)). Therefore, our interpretation is guided not just by a single sentence or sentence fragment, but by the language of the whole law, and its object and policy. See Grammatico v. United States, 109 F.3d 1198, 1204 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing United States v. Heirs of Boisdore, 49 U.S. (8 How.) 113 (1849)). Further, we may adopt a restricted rather than a literal meaning of a word where acceptance of the literal meaning would lead to absurd results. See Chicago Transit Auth. v. Adams, 607 F.2d 1284, 1289-90 (7th Cir. 1980); see also Commissioner v. Brown, 380...

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