Friday, January 17, 2020

6th Circuit: Mosque Is Not In Interstate Commerce Under Federal Arson Statute

In United States v. Doggert, (6th Cir., Jan. 15, 2020), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed defendant's conviction for solicitation to commit federal arson of a local mosque. The federal arson statute (18 USC §844(i)) covers only property used in interstate of foreign commerce or in an activity affecting such commerce. The court said in part:
By any conventional measure, these terms do not cover the attempted destruction of a local mosque or for that matter any house of worship. In everyday English, one does not think of a mosque that serves a 200-person local community as a building used in commerce, much less interstate commerce. There may be plenty of good reasons to prosecute Robert Doggart for his deranged plan. But the words of this statute are not one of them.
However the court upheld Doggart's conviction under 18 USC §373 for solicitation to commit a crime of violence, namely destroying religious property in violation of 18 USC 247. [Thanks to Volokh Conspiracy for the lead.]