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United States v. Hill

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

June 13, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
JAMES WILLIAM HILL, III, Defendant-Appellee. MATTHEW SHEPARD FOUNDATION; FREESTATE JUSTICE, INC.; LAMBDA LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND, INCORPORATED; THE ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE; TREVOR PROJECT; PUBLIC JUSTICE CENTER; JAPANESE AMERICAN CITIZENS LEAGUE, Amici Supporting Appellant.

          Argued: March 20, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Richmond. John A. Gibney, Jr., District Judge. (3:16-cr-00009-JAG-1)

         ARGUED:

          Vikram Swaruup, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C, for Appellant.

          Patrick L. Bryant, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Eric S. Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General, Thomas E. Chandler, Tovah R. Calderon, Appellate Section, Civil Rights Division, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C.; G. Zachary Terwilliger, United States Attorney, Alexandria, Virginia, S. David Schiller, Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellant. Geremy C. Kamens, Federal Public Defender, Alexandria, Virginia, Mary E. Maguire, Assistant Federal Public Defender, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Richmond, Virginia; Elizabeth W. Hanes, CONSUMER LITIGATION ASSOCIATES, P.C., Richmond, Virginia, for Appellee.

          Jennifer L. Kent, FREESTATE JUSTICE, INC., Baltimore, Maryland; Joseph Dudek, GOHN HANKEY & BERLAGE LLP, Baltimore, Maryland; Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Cathren Cohen, LAMBDA LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND, INC., New York, New York, for Amici Curiae.

          Before MOTZ, AGEE, and WYNN, Circuit Judges.

          Wynn, Circuit Judge.

         In this appeal, we confront the issue of whether the federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 ("Hate Crimes Act"), 18 U.S.C. § 249(a)(2), may be constitutionally applied to an unarmed assault of a victim engaged in commercial activity at his place of work. This appears to be an issue of first impression in this Circuit or any other.

         Defendant James Hill, III ("Defendant") boastfully admitted to physically and violently assaulting a coworker preparing packages for interstate sale and shipment because of the coworker's sexual orientation. But after a jury convicted Defendant for violating the Hate Crimes Act, the district court granted Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal on grounds that the Hate Crimes Act, as applied to Defendant's conduct, exceeded Congress's authority under the Commerce Clause. Because we conclude that as applied to Defendant's conduct, the Hate Crimes Act easily falls under Congress's broad authority to regulate interstate commerce, we reverse and remand to the district court to reinstate the jury's guilty verdict.

         I.

         At the time of the assault, Defendant and Curtis Tibbs ("Tibbs")[1] were coworkers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Chester, Virginia. Defendant worked as a "re-binner" at the facility, moving items from conveyor belts and placing them into bins in a wall. Tibbs worked as a "packer," loading these items from the bins into boxes for packaging, scanning them, packaging them in a box, and then placing the boxes on a conveyor belt to move to the next department.

         Video shows that shortly after the beginning of Tibbs's shift on May 22, 2015, as Tibbs carried items to load into a box, Defendant approached Tibbs from behind and- without provocation or warning-repeatedly punched him in the face. As a result of the assault and battery, Tibbs suffered significant bruising, cuts to his face, and a bloody nose. After the incident, Tibbs went to Amazon's in-house medical clinic and then to the nearest hospital for treatment. Tibbs did not return to work on the production line for the remaining several hours of his ten-hour shift. Amazon shut down the area of the incident for approximately 30-45 minutes to clean blood off the floor, but Amazon did not miss any "critical pull times," or packaging deadlines, as a result of the incident because other areas of the facility absorbed the work. J.A. 24. An expert witness testified that, notwithstanding Tibbs' absence and the temporary closure of his workspace, the performance of the fulfillment center as a whole during the shift in which the incident occurred was in-line with its performance during other shifts.

         Defendant told an Amazon investigator and a local police officer that he assaulted Tibbs solely because Tibbs was gay. In particular, Defendant stated that "his personal belief is he didn't like [homosexuals]," that Tibbs "disrespected him because he is a homosexual," and that Defendant "does not like homosexuals, so he punched [Tibbs]." J.A. 353, 383. Defendant offered no other explanation for the assault.

         The Commonwealth of Virginia initially charged Defendant with misdemeanor assault and battery in state court, but the state prosecutor subsequently requested that the United States "assume prosecution of this case as a hate crime" under the Hate Crimes Act, in part because Virginia's hate crime statute does not cover crimes based on sexual orientation. J.A. 25.

         On July 24, 2015, the United States Attorney General certified that Defendant's prosecution under the Hate Crimes Act "is in the public interest and is necessary to secure substantial justice." J.A. 25. Thereafter, the Commonwealth of Virginia dropped the misdemeanor assault charge, and on January 19, 2016, a federal grand jury indicted Defendant under the Hate Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 249(a)(2). The indictment stated that:

On or about May 22, 2015 . . . [Defendant] did willfully cause bodily injury to [Tibbs] by assaulting [Tibbs], including by punching [Tibbs], because of [Tibbs's] actual and perceived sexual orientation, namely that he is gay; and that, in connection with the offense, [Defendant] [1] interfered with commercial and other economic activity in which [Tibbs] was engaged at the time of the conduct, and which offense [2] otherwise affected interstate and foreign commerce.

J.A. 19.

         Defendant moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing in relevant part that Section 249(a)(2) of the Hate Crimes Act, on its face and as applied to him, exceeded Congress's power under the Commerce Clause. The district court agreed with Defendant's as- applied challenge and dismissed the indictment.[2] United States v. Hill, 182 F.Supp.3d 546, 555-56 (E.D. Va. 2016). The Government appealed the district court's dismissal.

         In an unpublished opinion, a divided panel of this Court reversed and remanded the district court's decision with directions to reinstate the indictment. United States v. Hill, 700 Fed.Appx. 235 (4th Cir. 2017). The majority opinion stated that "[o]n its face, the indictment is legally sufficient and does not present an unconstitutional exercise of Congressional power." Id. at 236-37. However, because the case presented an as-applied challenge, the majority opinion further concluded that it was "premature to determine the constitutional issues" because "whether [Defendant's] conduct sufficiently affects interstate commerce as to satisfy the constitutional limitations placed on Congress' Commerce Clause power may well depend on a consideration of facts, and because the facts proffered here may or may not be developed at trial." Id. at 237. Therefore, the majority opinion did not resolve the merits of Defendant's Commerce Clause challenge.

         On remand, the Government dropped reliance on the statutory element that the offense "otherwise affect[ed] interstate or foreign commerce." 18 U.S.C. § 249(a)(2)(B)(iv)(II). Instead, the Government relied exclusively on the theory that Defendant's assault of Tibbs "interfere[d] with commercial or other economic activity in which the victim [was] engaged at the time of the conduct." Id. § 249(a)(2)(B)(iv)(I); J.A. 440.

         The district court held a two-day jury trial beginning on January 22, 2018. The district court instructed the jury that the Government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) Defendant caused bodily injury to Tibbs; (2) Defendant did so willfully; (3) Defendant did so because of Tibbs's actual or perceived sexual orientation; and (4) Defendant's conduct "interfered with the commercial or economic activity in which Tibbs was engaged at the time of the conduct." J.A. 541. The jury found Defendant guilty.

         Thereafter, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29, Defendant moved for judgment of acquittal, arguing that the Hate Crimes Act is unconstitutional as applied to his assault of Tibbs. The district court granted Defendant's motion, concluding that the Hate Crimes Act as applied exceeds Congress's Commerce Clause authority. Specifically, the district court held that the Hate Crimes Act as applied does not regulate activity that substantially affects interstate commerce. The Government timely appealed the district court's judgment of acquittal.

         II.

         On appeal, the Government argues that the district court erred in granting Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal on grounds that the Hate Crimes Act, as applied to Defendant's conduct, exceeds Congress's authority under the Commerce Clause. We review de novo a district court's award of judgment of acquittal. United States v. Singh, 518 F.3d 236, 246 (4th Cir. 2008). To the extent that there are factual disputes, we view "the evidence in the light most favorable to the Government," which prevailed at trial. Id. at 252.

         A.

         It "is a well-worn yet ever-vital maxim that the Constitution creates a Federal Government of enumerated powers." United States v. Bollinger, 798 F.3d 201, 208 (4th Cir. 2015) (alterations and internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 552 (1995)). Among these enumerated powers, the Commerce Clause permits Congress "[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 3.

         Under the Supreme Court's modern Commerce Clause jurisprudence, "Congress is limited to regulating three broad categories of interstate activity: (1) 'the use of the channels of interstate commerce,' (2) 'the instrumentalities of interstate commerce, or persons or things in interstate commerce,' and (3) 'activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.'" Bollinger, 798 F.3d at 209 (quoting Lopez, 514 U.S. at 558-59). In limiting federal authority to these categories, the Supreme Court has consistently invoked themes of federalism and its view that "Congress's interstate power must be 'read carefully to avoid creating a general federal authority akin to the police power.'" Id. at 211 (quoting Nat'l Fed'n of Indep. Bus. v. Sebelius, 567 U.S. 519, 536 (2012)).

         Congress paid close attention to the scope of its authority under the Commerce Clause when it enacted the Hate Crimes Act, which was designed to strengthen federal efforts to combat violent hate crimes-crimes targeting victims based on certain enumerated characteristics. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, Pub. L. 111-84, §§ 4701-13, 123 Stat. 2190, 2835-44 (2009). The statute's substantive provisions are preceded by congressional findings regarding the prevalence and impact of violent hate crimes throughout the country, as well as Congress's intent to assist state and local efforts to combat such violence. Id. § 4702.

         Distinguishing hate crimes from other violent crimes-over which, Congress emphasized, States continue to retain exclusive prosecutorial authority-Congress concluded that violent hate crimes "substantially affect[] interstate commerce in many ways." Id. § 4702(6). Among these effects, Congress explained that:

(A) The movement of members of targeted groups is impeded, and members of such groups are forced to move across State lines to escape the incidence or risk of such violence.
(B) Members of targeted groups are prevented from purchasing goods and services, obtaining or sustaining employment, or participating in other commercial activity.
(C) Perpetrators cross State lines to commit such violence.
(D) Channels, facilities, and instrumentalities of interstate commerce are used to facilitate the commission of such violence.
(E) Such violence is committed using articles that have traveled in interstate commerce.

Id. As such, Congress concluded that "[f]ederal jurisdiction over certain violent crimes motivated by bias enables Federal, State, and local authorities to work together as partners in the investigation and prosecution of such crimes." Id. § 4702(9).

         To achieve this state-federal collaboration, the Hate Crimes Act created several federal criminal offenses arising out of violent acts undertaken with animus towards various actual or perceived personal characteristics of the victim. Of particular relevance, the statute provides that any person who, under certain specified circumstances, "willfully causes bodily injury to any person . . . because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person . . . shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years." 18 U.S.C. § 249(a)(2)(A)(i). Such conduct may be prosecuted under the statute when it, inter alia, "interferes with commercial or other economic activity in which the victim is engaged at the time of the conduct." Id. § 249(a)(2)(B)(iv)(I).

         In adopting the Hate Crimes Act, Congress sought to "invoke the full scope of [its] Commerce Clause power, and to ensure that hate crimes prosecutions brought under [§ 249(a)(2) would] not be mired in constitutional litigation." H.R. Rep. No. 111-86, at 15 (2009). To ensure that conduct criminalized under the statute would have "the requisite connection to interstate commerce," Congress adverted to several Supreme Court decisions setting forth the outer limits of Congress's authority under the Commerce Clause-including United States v. Lopez, in which the Supreme Court held that a federal statute proscribing possession of guns in school zones violated the Commerce Clause, 514 U.S. at 567, and United States v. Morrison, in which the Supreme Court held that a federal statute providing a civil remedy for victims of gender-motivated violence violated the Commerce Clause, 529 U.S. 598, 601-02 (2000), see id. ("To avoid constitutional concerns arising from the decision in [Lopez], the bill requires that the Government prove beyond a reasonable doubt, as an element of the offense, a nexus to interstate commerce in every prosecution brought under one of the newly created categories of 18 U.S.C. 249(a)(2)."); see also id. (explaining that the interstate commerce element was "drawn to comport with Supreme Court guidance in Lopez and [Morrison]"); id. (explaining that "[t]he interstate commerce nexus required by the bill is analogous to that required in other Federal criminal statutes," such as the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, 18 U.S.C. § 247). Without question, the Hate Crimes Act reflects Congress's carefully considered judgment that the scope of the statute complies with Congress's authority under the Commerce Clause, as that authority has been understood by the Supreme Court.

         Here, the Commonwealth's Attorney in Chesterfield County recognized that Defendant could not be prosecuted for a hate crime in Virginia for his admission of having assaulted Tibbs because he is gay. That is because the Virginia assault statute that includes enhancements for hate crimes does not include increased punishment for crimes involving sexual orientation. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-57 (covering assaults and batteries resulting in bodily injury committed because of race, religious conviction, color, or national origin).

         But because Tibbs was assaulted while preparing packages for interstate sale and shipment, the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office in Chesterfield County decided to specifically refer this case to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Following the U.S. Attorney General's certification that prosecuting Defendant at the federal level is in the public interest and is necessary to secure substantial justice, the Government indicted Defendant under the Hate Crimes Act. Defendant's prosecution therefore additionally reflects the considered judgment of both the Attorney General and Commonwealth of Virginia that the statute's scope neither exceeds Congress's Commerce Clause authority nor interferes with the Commonwealth's police power.

         B.

         Against this legal backdrop, the Government contends that the district court erred in holding that Defendant's assault and battery of Tibbs lacked sufficient connection to interstate commerce to support Defendant's conviction under the Hate Crimes Act. Specifically, the Government emphasizes that the jury found that the assault and battery-which occurred while Tibbs was working as an Amazon employee and preparing packages for interstate sale and shipment-"interfere[d] with commercial or other economic activity in which [Tibbs was] engaged at the time of the [assault]." 18 U.S.C. § 249(a)(2)(B)(iv)(I). According to the Government, that finding renders Defendant's conviction consistent with Congress's Commerce Clause authority.

         Whether the Hate Crimes Act may be constitutionally applied to an unarmed assault of a victim engaged in commercial activity at his place of work appears to be an issue of first impression in this Circuit or any other. See, e.g., United States v. Miller, 767 F.3d 585, 589, 602 (6th Cir. 2014) (reversing Hate Crimes Act convictions due to erroneous jury instructions and declining to consider an as-applied challenge to the prosecution of a series of assaults on Amish men); United States v. Mason, 993 F.Supp.2d 1308, 1317 (D. Or. 2014) (rejecting an as-applied challenge involving an assault with a weapon, but noting that "it might be unconstitutional to apply the [Hate Crimes Act] . . . if the weapon [the defendant] used had not traveled in interstate or foreign commerce, or if he had not used any weapon at all"); United States v. Jenkins, 909 F.Supp.2d 758, 764, 773 (E.D. Ky. 2012) (concluding, albeit reluctantly, that the Hate Crimes Act is constitutional as applied to defendants who kidnapped and transported the victim along a federal highway).

         Despite this lack of precedential guidance, the parties agree that Defendant's conviction is constitutional, if at all, as an effort to regulate "activities that substantially affect interstate commerce." Bollinger, 798 F.3d at 209 (internal quotation marks omitted). The Government argues that, by "interfering" with Tibbs's packaging and shipping of products, Defendant's conduct "substantially affect[ed] interstate commerce," as that phrase has been interpreted in decisions upholding federal prosecutions for robbery and extortion under the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a), and arson under 18 U.S.C. § 844(i). We agree.

         Similar to the Hate Crimes Act, the Hobbs Act includes an interstate commerce element, establishing a federal crime for robbery or extortion that "in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce." 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); see also Taylor v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2074, 2080 (2016) ("[T]he Hobbs Act . . . contains such a[] [jurisdictional] element-namely, the conduct criminalized must affect or attempt to affect commerce in some way or degree."). The Supreme Court addressed a Commerce Clause challenge to the Hobbs Act in Taylor, which involved the prosecution of a defendant who attempted to steal marijuana and cash from two drug dealers. 136 S.Ct. at 2078-79. The Court held that the defendant's prosecution complied with the Commerce Clause, characterizing its holding as "straightforward and dictated by [the Court's] precedent." Id. at 2077. Specifically, the Court explained that Congress's authority to regulate purely intrastate production, possession, and sale of marijuana-due to the aggregate effect of those activities on interstate commerce-compelled the conclusion that Congress may likewise regulate conduct that interferes with or affects such activities. See id. at 2080.

         Taylor, the Supreme Court held, was controlled by the Court's decision in Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005). In Raich, the Supreme Court analyzed Congress's authority to regulate the marijuana market, concluding that Congress may "regulate purely local activities that are part of an economic 'class of activities' that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce." Taylor, 136 S.Ct. at 2080 (quoting Raich, 545 U.S. at 17). The Taylor Court explained that its holding "require[d] no more than that we graft our holding in Raich onto the commerce element of the Hobbs Act." Id.. Because "the activity at issue [in Taylor], the sale of marijuana, is unquestionably an economic activity . . . [i]t therefore follows as a simple matter of logic that a robber who affects or attempts to affect even the intrastate sale of marijuana . . . affects or attempts to affect commerce over which the United States has jurisdiction." Id. (emphasis added). Notably, the Court explained that the Government did not need to provide evidence of the robbery's impact on interstate commerce because "[b]y targeting a drug dealer in this way, a robber necessarily affects or attempts to affect commerce over which the United States has jurisdiction"-namely, the sale of marijuana. Id. at 2078.

         Taylor, therefore, establishes that, pursuant to its power under the Commerce Clause, Congress may proscribe violent conduct when such conduct interferes with or otherwise affects commerce over which Congress has jurisdiction.[3] See id. Importantly, Congress may regulate violent conduct interfering with interstate commerce even when the conduct itself has a "minimal" effect on such commerce. Id. at 2079, 2081; see also United States v. Williams, 342 F.3d 350, 354 (4th Cir. 2003) (noting that Lopez and Morrison "do not disturb our continued application of this 'minimal effects' standard [to Hobbs Act prosecutions]"); id. (collecting circuit cases that have "uniformly held that the Hobbs Act's jurisdictional predicate still requires only a minimal effect on commerce").

         Like the Hobbs Act and the Hate Crimes Act, the federal arson statute includes an interstate commerce element, establishing a federal crime for burning "any . . . property used in interstate or foreign commerce or in any activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce." 18 U.S.C. § 844(i). Thus was found to be so in Russell v. United States, 471 U.S. 858 (1985), in which the Supreme Court unanimously held that the Government constitutionally applied the arson statute to prosecute a defendant who set fire to a two-unit apartment building. Id. at 858-62.

         In reaching that conclusion in Russell, the Court noted that the statute's broad phrasing-covering any property used in an activity affecting interstate commerce-was intended to "protect all business property, as well as some additional property that might not fit that description." Id. at 862. The rental property at issue was "unquestionably" covered by the statute, the Court explained, because "the local rental of an apartment unit is merely an element of a much broader commercial market in rental properties," and "[t]he congressional power to regulate the class of activities that constitute the rental market for real estate includes the power to regulate individual activity within that class." Id. As in Taylor, the Court thus held that Congress may regulate violent conduct when such conduct interferes with or affects commerce subject to congressional regulation-there, the commercial market in rental properties. See United States v. Garcia, 768 F.3d 822, 829-30 (9th Cir. 2014) ("[T]he congressional power to regulate the class of activities that constitute the rental market for real estate includes the power to regulate individual activity within that class." (quoting Russell, 471 U.S. at 862)).

         The Supreme Court again addressed the constitutional sweep of the federal arson statute in Jones v. United States, 529 U.S. 848 (2000). There, the Court construed the statute to permit the Government to pursue a prosecution only when a defendant's conduct affects "property currently used in commerce or in an activity affecting commerce," thereby excluding private residences lacking a nexus to interstate commerce. 529 U.S. at 859. In so doing, the Court sought to avoid the potential constitutional concerns that may have arisen had Congress sought to "render . . . traditionally local criminal conduct . . . a matter for federal enforcement." Id. at 858 (internal quotation marks omitted). As in Russell, the Court's analysis in Jones makes plain that when a defendant's conduct interferes with or otherwise affects commerce subject to congressional regulation, that conduct may be federally regulated under the Commerce Clause.

         Following Jones, this Circuit has affirmed federal arson convictions in cases involving defendants who set fires to a restaurant and a church providing daycare services because those buildings were "actively engaged in commercial activity." See United States v. Terry, 257 F.3d 366, 370 (4th Cir. 2001) ("Regardless of the [church's] effect on interstate commerce, the daycare center's presence transformed the building into one that was being actively employed for commercial purposes"); United States v. Aman, 480 Fed.Appx. 221, 223 (4th Cir. 2012) (noting, in a case dealing with the arson of a restaurant, that the federal arson statute's "jurisdictional hook as interpreted in Jones serves the purpose of limiting the statute to arson cases where there really was a substantial and non-attenuated effect on interstate commerce" (citations and alterations omitted)). Therefore, the arson cases, like the Hobbs Act cases, establish that when Congress may regulate the commercial activities taking place in a building, it also can criminalize activities that interfere with those properties.[4]

         Taken together, the Supreme Court's decisions in Taylor, Russell, Jones, and this Circuit's decisions in Terry and Aman, establish that when Congress may regulate an economic or commercial activity, it also may regulate violent conduct that interferes with or affects that activity. Hence, if individuals are engaged in ongoing economic or commercial activity subject to congressional regulation-as Tibbs was at the time of the assault-then Congress also may prohibit violent crime that interferes with or affects such individuals' ongoing economic or commercial activity, including the type of bias-motivated assaults proscribed by the Hate Crimes Act.[5]

         Defendant does not dispute-apparently for the good reason that it is beyond dispute-that Congress enjoys the authority to regulate the underlying commercial activity Tibbs was engaged in at the time of the assault-the preparation of goods for sale and shipment across state lines. See United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100, 113 (1941) (noting that "the shipment of manufactured goods interstate is such [interstate] commerce"). Thus, upholding Defendant's conviction "requires no more than that we graft [the Supreme Court's] holding in [Darby] onto the commerce element of the [Hate Crimes] Act." Taylor, 136 S.Ct. at 2080. Because Tibbs' activity-preparing packages for interstate sale and shipment-"is unquestionably an economic activity . . . [i]t therefore follows as a simple matter of logic that a [defendant] who affects or attempts to affect even the intrastate" preparation of packages for interstate sale and shipment "affects or attempts to affect commerce over which the United States has jurisdiction." Id.

         Here, the evidence introduced at trial provided a more-than-adequate basis for the jury to find that Tibbs' assault "interfered" with or "affected" Defendant's preparation of packages for interstate sale and shipment, and therefore "affect[ed] commerce over which the United States has jurisdiction." Id. At the time of the physical assault, Tibbs was pulling boxes and packaging them for interstate shipment. As a result of the assault, the packages prepared by Tibbs flew into the air and onto the ground. After the assault, Amazon closed the entire area where Tibbs and Defendant were working so that Tibbs's blood could be cleaned off the floor. And because of the assault, Tibbs missed the rest of his shift, and his work had to be absorbed by other facility employees.

         That Amazon was able to absorb the impact of Tibbs' absence without missing any key shipping deadlines and that the fulfillment center's performance during the shift impacted by Tibbs' assault was in-line with its performance during other shifts does not call into question this determination. On the contrary, the Supreme Court and this Court repeatedly have clarified that Congress may regulate interference with commerce, even if the effect of the interference on interstate commerce in an individual case is "minimal." See Taylor, 136 S.Ct. at 2081 ("It makes no difference under our cases that any actual or threatened effect on commerce in a particular case is minimal."). Put otherwise, when Congress may permissibly regulate a class of activities, the "courts have no power 'to excise, as trivial, individual instances' of the class." Id. (quoting Perez v. United States, 402 U.S. 146, 154 (1971).

         Similarly, this Court has held that, in as-applied Commerce Clause challenges, "the relevant question . . . is not whether one particular offense has an impact on interstate commerce, but whether the class of acts proscribed has such an impact." United States v. Gibert, 677 F.3d 613, 627 (4th Cir. 2012); see also Terry, 257 F.3d at 370 (affirming an arson conviction and holding that "[i]t is not dispositive that the commercial activity of providing daycare services took place entirely within the city of Raleigh"); Aman, 480 Fed.Appx. at ...


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