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United States v. Gumbs

United States District Court, District of Kansas

April 21, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTINE GUMBS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JULIE A. ROBINSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Before the Court are Defendant Christine Gumbs’ Motion to Dismiss Count 1 of the Indictment (Doc. 22), and Motion to Dismiss Counts 2-4 of the Indictment (Doc. 23); and the Government’s Rule 404(b) Notice (Doc. 25). The issues are fully briefed. The Court conducted a hearing on March 17, 2014, during which the Court heard oral argument and the Government presented evidence. The Court has considered the filings and the arguments made by the parties at the hearing and is prepared to rule. As described more fully below, the Court grants Defendant’s motion to dismiss Count 1 of the Indictment but denies her motion to dismiss Counts 2 through 4. The Court further sustains Defendant’s objection to the Government’s Rule 404(b) evidence.

I. Background

The Indictment in this matter alleges four counts against Christine Gumbs, a citizen who resided at the Ft. Riley Military Installation with her husband, Specialist Javier Gumbs, at the time of the alleged crimes. Specialist Gumbs is the step-father of two of Defendant’s children, L.V. and C.T.; they have one biological child together, J.G. Specialist Gumbs brought L.V. to the Irwin Army Community Hospital on October 7, 2012, with extensive injuries: open wounds, lacerations, burn marks and scars. Eventually, L.V. disclosed that Specialist Gumbs had abused him by burning him, beating him, and forcing the family dog to bite him. He was eventually transferred to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. Defendant was at work at the time of the abuse on October 7, 2012.

On February 20, 2013, charges were brought against Specialist Gumbs for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He was charged with one count of Battery upon a Child under 16 years of Age under § 128, and one count of Reckless Child Endangerment under § 134. The Court Martial was scheduled for June 10–12, 2013. On May 15, 2013, Defendant went to the Armed Forces Bank and prepared a notarized statement, taking full responsibility for burning L.V. At the Court Martial, Defendant testified that she drafted the document, that she was aware of the charges against her husband when she drafted it, and then asserted her Fifth Amendment rights when questioned as to the substance of her statement.

The Government proffered evidence about the nature of L.V.’s injuries, including photographs from the October 7 incident. The evidence includes statements made by L.V. about his abuse, and C.T.’s testimony that Specialist Gumbs forced him to hold down L.V. during the abuse, and threatened to burn C.T. if he did not comply. C.T. also told investigators that Specialist Gumbs had beaten him with a fist and belt. L.V.’s treating physician will testify that L.V.’s injuries occurred during multiple episodes of abuse that occurred over a range of time, and that there is no way to determine with complete certainty the age of the wounds and scars. She will testify that some of the injuries and scars could be months old, while others could be days old. Because L.V. and C.T. provided statements that the abuse happened when they resided at Fort Riley, the Government charged counts 2 through 4 from the date that the family moved to Fort Riley, which was in June 2012.[1]

Count 1 of the Indictment charges Defendant with being an accessory after the fact under 18 U.S.C. § 3, to Specialist Gumbs’ offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Counts 2 through 4 of the Indictment charge Defendant under the Assimilated Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 13, with reckless child endangerment under K.S.A. § 21-5601. Each ACA count pertains to one of Defendant’s three children living in the Gumbs’ home. At the time of the October 7, 2012 incident, L.V. was five years old, C.T. was seven years old, and J.G. was one year old.

Defendant has another child, C.W., who is about one year older than J.G., with Richie E. Welsh, Jr. Defendant and Welsh never married. In June 2011, Welsh resided in the Virgin Islands and Defendant resided in Virginia. Welsh picked up C.W. in Virginia for a prearranged extended two-month visitation. Upon changing his son’s diaper, Welsh noticed open sores and wounds due to an extreme case of eczema. When Welsh returned with C.W. to the Virgin Islands and took C.W. to a doctor, the child was admitted to the hospital and treated for three days. The documents submitted by the Government about this incident include a Virgin Islands Police report that the child suffered from neglect because his medical condition had gone untreated. It discusses Defendant’s reticence to cooperate in the investigation. The child has been in his father’s custody since this incident.

II. Discussion

A. Motion to Dismiss Count 1

18 U.S.C. § 3 provides: “Whoever, knowing that an offense against the United States has been committed, receives, relieves, comforts or assists the offender in order to hinder or prevent his apprehension, trial or punishment, is an accessory after the fact.” The elements of this claim are: (1) the commission of an underlying offense against the United States; (2) the defendant’s knowledge of that offense; and (3) assistance by the defendant in order to prevent the apprehension, trial or punishment of the offender.[2] Defendant argues in her motion to dismiss that the Indictment fails because neither of Specialist Gumbs’ offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice constitute an “offense against the United States.”

Defendant argues that offenses against the United States only include those offenses enumerated in the United States Criminal Code, and do not include military offenses. She argues that the military offense upon which Specialist Gumbs was charged is against a minor child, not against the United States. Because Specialist Gumbs’ offenses could not have been prosecuted in federal court, Defendant argues they may not serve as a predicate to an accessory after the fact charge. Defendant also focuses on the constitutional and statutory distinction between courts martial and Article III courts. For example, 18 U.S.C. § 3481, dealing with competency of the accused, and 18 U.S.C. § 4083, providing when a person may be imprisoned in a United States Penitentiary, each refer to persons charged or convicted of “offenses against the United States or by courts-martial.”[3]

The Government argues that the Uniform Code of Military Justice is a law of the United States, citing Article I of the Constitution, which delegates to Congress the task of providing rules and regulations governing the military. And the Government points to 1 U.S.C. § 204, which provides:

In all courts, tribunals, and public offices of the United States, at home or abroad, of the District of Columbia, and of each State, Territory, or ...

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