United States v. Shrader, No. 10-5169

Decided April 4, 2012

Over the course of more than three decades, Thomas Creighton Shrader harassed and intimidated D.S. and later her husband R.S. causing them to fear for their safety and that of their children.

Shrader was charged with two counts of stalking via a facility of interstate commerce in violation of 18 USC § 2261A(2); one count alleged that he targeted D.S. and the other count alleged that he targeted R.S. He was also charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation 18 USC § 922G(1). The counts were severed and two separate trials were held, first on the firearm charge and subsequently on the two stalking counts. Shrader was convicted on all counts and the District Court sentenced Shrader as an armed career criminal to 235 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release. Shrader appealed raising multiple issues including the vagueness of the stalking statute and the length of his sentence.

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the convictions after addressing all of the issues raised by Shrader. The court held that Shrader’s motion to suppress evidence of the firearms found in the house where he lived with his aunt was properly denied as Shrader’s aunt’s consent provided adequate permission for the police to search the house. The court gave effect to the US Supreme Court’s clearly drawn rule in Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103 (2006) that the defendant must be physically present to dispute his cotenant’s consent. The court further held that a jury instruction given by the District Court on constructive possession of a firearm was proper.

The court then addressed the constitutionality of the stalking statute, 18 USC § 2261A(2). The court reviewed the actions of Shrader, the language of the statute as well as decisions related to the same and rejected Shrader’s contention that his stalking convictions should be overturned on vagueness grounds. The court further found that the stalking statute unambiguously made the victim, rather than the course of conduct, the unit of prosecution so that the two stalking counts were not multiplicitous. Finally, the court referenced the lengthy and detailed sentencing hearing conducted by the District Court and the finding of facts that resulted therefrom and found that the length of the sentence imposed was proper.

Full Opinion

-John C. Bruton, III

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