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United States v. Overstreet

February 13, 1997

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

LEONARD OVERSTREET, GLEN E. GARNER, AND DOMINIC L. WARREN,

DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

No. 95-CR-97-S John C. Shabaz, Judge.

Before BAUER, HARLINGTON WOOD, JR., and DIANE P. WOOD, Circuit Judges.

HARLINGTON WOOD, JR., Circuit Judge.

ARGUED DECEMBER 11, 1996

DECIDED FEBRUARY 13, 1997

"Remember," said Captain Courtney of the HMS Tigress, "As Mr. Bligh has said, 'Discipline must be preserved on a merchantman as well as on a man-of-war, and mutiny and piracy suppressed.' "

The government argues today that discipline in a federal penal institution also must be preserved, and mutiny suppressed.

Counsel for the defendants, however, express their opinion that " 'mutiny' is a common English word, which in ordinary usage only conjures up an image of putting Captain Bligh into the longboat, pointing him toward England, and then setting sail for Tahiti." (Warren Br. at 10). While the common definition of mutiny "makes for great cinema," counsel contends, "it is of no particular assistance in trying to determine what conduct Congress intended to prohibit by 18 U.S.C. sec. 1792." *fn1 (Id.)

Determining the meaning of "mutiny" as used in 18 U.S.C. sec. 1792, a federal statute which penalizes mutiny in certain types of federal institutions, is now our task. *fn2 Few would disagree, except some inmates, that prison discipline must be maintained. The issue here is whether that can be done with this particular statute.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The defendants-appellants, Overstreet, Garner, and Warren, were indicted in December, 1995, and charged in Count I with instigating and assisting in a mutiny at the Federal Correctional Institution, Oxford, Wisconsin, in violation of 18 U.S.C. secs. 1792, 2, and in Count II with wilfully injuring property of the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. secs. 1361, 2. The defendants entered negotiated pleas of guilty to each count, reserving, however, the right to raise the issue of the vagueness of the mutiny statute and the insufficiency of the indictment as well as a sentencing issue. The defendants raised all of these matters by motions in the trial court, and the court denied them. Defendants have substantial prior offense records and are presently incarcerated at Oxford for cocaine violations.

The incidents involved in this case occurred on October 20, 1995 shortly after the Bureau of Prisons ordered the institution locked down. That order resulted from a major inmate disturbance at the federal correctional institution in Talladega, Alabama and from similar disturbances at other institutions around the country at about this time. Prison officials believed that these disturbances were related to Congress's decision not to amend the crack cocaine sentencing guidelines so as to make them less severe. Congress reached this decision on October 18, 1995, the day before the disturbances began.

The disturbance began at Oxford when one of the defendants, Garner, shouted obscenities at a guard. A confrontation ensued. The defendants made forceful anti-crack law statements; an object hit the officers' station window, shattering glass upon the officers; and defendants Warren and Overstreet using mop wringers broke six windows in the shower area and another window by the range door. Defendant Garner pulled apart a wooden table and used one of the legs to break a window in the television room along with a television set. Then, Garner swung the table leg threateningly over his head saying that the guards would have to kill him. A ranking guard entered the area and ordered the defendants to lay down whatever they were using ...


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