Arguments by a man convicted of cyberstalking that he was not competent to stand trial, that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for sending threatening interstate communications and that there were errors in sentencing, were all rejected.
A jury convicted William Scott Davis Jr. of one count of cyberstalking and three counts of sending threatening interstate communications. Davis appeals, contending that the district court committed a panoply of errors.
We find no clear error in the district court’s determination that Davis was competent to stand trial. Davis’s interactions with the court at his third competency hearing evidence a sound grasp of the legal proceedings despite their complex posture. He cogently asked and answered questions related to his defense and even corrected the district court regarding the status of his pending appeals.
Moreover, the forensic psychologist testified that, despite his uncooperative behavior, Davis had the ability to rationally evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the government’s evidence and to consult with his attorney. It was well within the district court’s “wide latitude” to rely on Davis’s demeanor and the expert testimony and find that Davis failed to meet his burden to show incompetency by a preponderance of the evidence.
Nor do we find clear error in the district court’s denial of Davis’s subsequent requests for a new competency determination or in its failure to undertake such a determination sua sponte. The record in this case is devoid of any evidence of a change in Davis’s behavior or demeanor that would warrant reconsideration of his competency to stand trial. Davis’s arguments to the contrary are unavailing.
Motion for judgment of acquittal
Davis next contends that the district court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal.
Viewed in the light most favorable to the government, the evidence certainly provided a sufficient basis for the jury to find the elements of sending threatening interstate communications beyond a reasonable doubt. First, the government established that Davis’s emails were sent from Davis’s email accounts. Second, the emails themselves demonstrate Davis’s subjective intent to threaten. Third, the government offered sufficient evidence for the jury to find that a reasonable recipient of the emails would view them as a serious expression of intent to harm.
Davis also challenges his convictions for sending threatening interstate communications on the ground that the indictment failed to allege Davis’s subjective intent to threaten. Because Davis failed to raise this objection before trial, we review for plain error. Assuming without deciding that the indictment failed to charge a violation of § 875(c), any such error did not affect the fairness, integrity or public reputation of judicial proceedings.
Finally, Davis challenges his conviction for cyberstalking, arguing that a recipient’s emotional distress may have been caused by other conduct, such as his filing of civil lawsuits and bar complaints. This argument fails —regardless of what degree of distress Davis’s emails actually caused, the cyberstalking statute covers acts that would be reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress.
Davis argues that the district court erred in assigning a criminal history point to a 2014 state conviction for assault in Virginia. Davis contends that under Virginia law, his appeal of the conviction entitled him to a de novo trial in the circuit court; accordingly, his assault conviction was vacated. This does not warrant excluding the conviction from Davis’s criminal history score under the guidelines, for the sentence was not “vacated because of errors of law or because of subsequently discovered evidence exonerating the defendant.”
Second, Davis contends that the district court erred in imposing an enhancement for obstruction of justice. The district court did not clearly err in finding that Davis’s email to one person before sentencing was sent with the purpose of influencing her before her allocution at the sentencing hearing. Moreover, the email directly violated the district court’s order prohibiting Davis from contacting his victims. Davis contends that the email did not actually influence the recipient, but this distinction is immaterial — the guideline expressly covers attempts to obstruct justice.
Finally, the court rejects arguments that the district court erred in increasing Davis’s criminal history category, denying downward departures or that his sentence was substantively unreasonable.
United States v. Davis (Per curiam) Case No. 18-4201. Jan. 21, 2020. From E.D.N.C. (William Earl Britt, S.J.) Patricia Palmer Nagel for Appellant, Javier Alberto Sinha for Appellee. 17 pp.