Argued: March 30, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of North Carolina, at Charlotte. Robert J. Conrad,
Jr., District Judge. (3:15-cr-00076-RJC-DSC-1)
Lee DiLauro, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Raleigh,
North Carolina, for Appellant.
Anthony Joseph Enright, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY,
Charlotte, North Carolina, for Appellee.
P. McNamara, Federal Public Defender, Stephen C. Gordon,
Assistant Federal Public Defender, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL
PUBLIC DEFENDER, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant.
Westmoreland Rose, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Charlotte, North Carolina, for
SHEDD, DUNCAN, and AGEE, Circuit Judges.
knowing their true identity, Fathia-Anna Davis hired two
undercover police detectives to murder her ex-husband. During
the detectives' undercover investigation, Davis used her
car and three mobile phones on multiple occasions to meet and
communicate with them about the plot, and she eventually paid
them $4, 000 when they falsely told her the murder had been
committed. As a result, Davis was convicted and sentenced to
the 120-month statutory maximum under the federal
"murder-for-hire" statute, 18 U.S.C. §
1958. She now appeals, arguing that the
district court erred by denying her motion to dismiss the
§ 1958 charge based on the "manufactured
jurisdiction" doctrine and by imposing an unreasonable
sentence. Finding no merit to these arguments, we affirm.
first address Davis' "manufactured
jurisdiction" argument. Pertinent here, § 1958
criminalizes the use of any facility of interstate or foreign
commerce, including means of transportation and
communication, with intent that a murder be committed for
compensation. Davis moved to dismiss the charge against her
based on the manufactured jurisdiction doctrine, which
prohibits the government from "manipulat[ing] events to
create federal jurisdiction over a case." United
States v. Al-Talib, 55 F.3d 923, 929 (4th Cir. 1995). By
invoking this doctrine, Davis essentially argues that the
government failed to prove the requisite use of a facility of
interstate or foreign commerce. See United States v.
Wallace, 85 F.3d 1063, 1065-66 (2d Cir.
1996). We review this matter de novo,
viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
government. United States v. Fuertes, 805 F.3d 485,
501-02 (4th Cir. 2015), cert. denied, 136 S.Ct. 1220
government's evidence establishes that while Davis was
married to Jodi Davis ("Jodi"), she unsuccessfully
attempted to kill him by putting Ambien in his food before he
went to work. Davis intended for Jodi to lose consciousness
while driving and die in a car crash. However, Jodi passed
out from his Ambien-laced food before driving and eventually
received medical care. When Davis learned that Jodi was alive
in the hospital, she told her family nanny that she thought
Jodi was dead, and she also described her effort to drug and
kill him. The nanny later told Jodi about the drugging, and
Davis fired her.
divorcing Jodi, Davis asked her friend Huy Nguyen if he knew
anyone who could kill Jodi. Davis was aware that Nguyen had
previously worked for a car dealership used by gang members
and drug dealers. Nguyen advised Davis not to kill Jodi and
told her that he would ask someone to do so if she wanted him
Nguyen decided against helping Davis and several days later
told a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department
("CMPD") officer about her request. Subsequently,
CMPD Detective Jim Hetrick met Nguyen, who agreed to assist
police with an investigation. At the request of officers,
Nguyen sent Davis a text message stating he had found someone
to do the job for her. Through a series of cellphone
conversations and text messages, Nguyen arranged for Davis to
meet CMPD undercover detectives Robert Rendon and Rolando
Ortiz-Trinidad. Eventually, Davis met with them on three
occasions, and she drove her car to and from each meeting.
first meeting occurred on February 15, 2015, at a shopping
center. Nguyen introduced Davis to the detectives, and she
got into their unmarked car. Davis used a mobile phone to
show the detectives Jodi's photograph and told them that
she wanted him killed. Davis then directed the detectives to
Jodi's apartment complex, where she provided his address
and identified his automobiles. During the meeting, the
detectives asked Davis if she was certain of her intent to
have Jodi killed, and she replied: "I want him out of my
life. I want him out of my daughter's life. I've been
trying for the last two years." J.A. 104. Davis and the
detectives discussed the timing and method of the murder and
agreed on a price of $4, 000, with $500 to be paid up front.
After the detectives and Davis returned to the shopping
center, Jodi happened to pass by, and Davis pointed him out.
days later, on February 18, Davis placed a voice call and
sent several text messages asking the detectives to call her.
Although Davis had previously used two other phones to
arrange the first meeting, this time she used a Tracfone,
which is a prepaid phone that can be obtained without a name
or credit-card information. Detective Rendon ...