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United States v. Edwards

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

January 17, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JOY MCSHAN EDWARDS, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          DATEEDMUND A. SARGUS, JR. UNITED STATE DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This action comes before the Court after a bench trial on the one-count indictment of witness retaliation in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1513(e) against Defendant Joy McShan Edwards as well as a Motion for Judgment of Acquittal. For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES the Motion for Judgment of Acquittal and finds the Defendant GUILTY.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         The Defendant was indicted on August 3, 2017, on one count of retaliating against a witness in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1513(e). Thereafter, the Defendant and the Government waived trial by jury. On December 11, 2017, the parties appeared before the Court for a bench trial.

         The Government presented three witnesses at the trial, including United States Marshall Zach Denzler, the Confidential Informant ("CI 1") affected by Defendant's social media posts, and DEA Special Agent Matt Heufelder. In addition, Defendant moved for a judgment of acquittal pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29.

         B. Findings of Fact

         In 2015, Defendant's two brothers, Frederick and David McShan were arrest for running a drug trafficking ring in Steubenville, Ohio. In March of 2017, both brothers were tried before a jury. See USA v. McShan et al, 2:15-cr-24 (S.D. Ohio). At the trial, several witnesses testified that Frederick and David McShan traveled to Illinois to buy heroin for resale in the Ohio Valley. (Id. ECF No. 328 at 4-8.) Frederick McShan was convicted by a jury of eleven counts of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute heroin and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. David McShan was convicted of one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin and possession with intent to distribute heroin. At one point during the brothers' trial, the U.S. Marshalls removed several of Frederick and David McShan's relatives and friends from the courtroom for illegally video recording witnesses' pictures and testimony.

         CI 1 aided the Government in the prosecution of the McShan brothers by serving as confidential informant against the brothers prior to their arrest and as a witness at the brothers' trial in Columbus, Ohio for the Government. CI 1 's help included allowing law enforcement to fit him with electronic equipment that recorded his telephone calls with Frederick McShan and videotaped any place he went with Frederick McShan.

         The McShan brothers, Ms. Edwards, and CI 1 are from Steubenville, Ohio. Steubenville is located approximately 150 miles from Columbus, and has an estimated population of 18, 303 residents.[1] Some Steubenville residents were present at the McShan brothers' trial during CI 1 's testimony.

         1. Defendant's Social Media Posts

         Beginning on May 11, 2017, prior to sentencing of her brothers, Defendant began posting doctored photos of CI 1, depicting him on the witness stand and labeling him, among other terms, as a "snitch." (See Government Exhibits 2-7.) [2] The first image Ms. Edwards posted on her Facebook contains a photo of CI I's face cropped onto a body which sits on a witness stand pointing his finger, as if at a defendant and includes the caption "Niggas like you get a Nigga super bowl numbers." (Gov. Exhibit 2.) The image generated comments, including one person asking whose photo is in the post and another commenter responding with CI 1 's nickname. (Id.) At different points in the comment thread Ms. Edwards posted additional comments such as "fuck him!" and "Look at that bitch ass snitch lips! They are crack up and ashey [sic] white from running it so much! His bitch ass needs some WD40!" (Id.)

         On May 17, 2017, Defendant posted an image to her Facebook account with a photo of CI 1 cropped on a body of a person holding a T-shirt with a badge printed on it, and the caption below the photo stating 'This nigga look like he just snitch for fun, " with laughing faces and a skull emoji also in the caption. (Gov, Exhibit 3.) On the same day, Defendant posted the comment "Snitch (rat image) ass bitch!" with a photo attached of a person with CI l's face cropped in wearing a t-shirt with the words "Stop Snitching" in a stop sign pattern. (Gov. Exhibit 4.) In a thread of comments below the image, Defendant responded to a commenter's question "Who is that?" by writing "This guy is snitching! He snitched on my brothers! And lied about everything!" (Id.) On May 18, 2017, Defendant posted on her Facebook account the comment "Snitching like a bitch!!!!" with a photo of CI l's face cropped onto a picture, (Gov. Exhibit 5.) On May 21, 2017, Defendant posted another image to her Facebook account of animated hands, handcuffed, with the caption "Man up.. .shut your mouth take the charge and don't snitch." (Gov. Exhibit 6.)

         2. CI l's Testimony

         At trial, CI 1 testified that after Ms. Edwards posted the first images of him and labeled him a snitch, he began to receive numerous Facebook friend requests from people he did not know, which caused him to fear for his safety and for the safety of his family. He first became aware of the Defendant's actions when he received multiple text messages from friends and/or acquaintances, notifying him of the posts. He acknowledged that after he testified against the McShan brothers, a few people knew about his testimony but that after Ms. Edwards posted his photos to her Facebook, people began approaching him and recognizing him as a snitch. As a result, he fears visiting Steubenville.

         CI 1 has four children who reside in Steubenville. He testified that he fears for his safety and the safety of his children if he returns to Steubenville to see them. Prior to the Facebook posts, CI 1 visited his children on a daily basis, but now, only sees them occasionally. CI 1 further testified that Defendant's nephew ...


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