*fn1,The opinion of the court was delivered by: King, Senior Judge,Patrick T. Hand, appointed by the court, for appellant.,JESSE C. BAKER, APPELLANT, v. UNITED STATES, APPELLEE." />

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Baker v. United States

January 26, 2006 *fn1


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (F5271-03) (Hon. Russell F. Canan, Trial Judge).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: King, Senior Judge

Argued September 20, 2005

Before FARRELL and REID, Associate Judges, and KING, Senior Judge.

Jesse C. Baker was charged with stalking, threatening to injure a person, assault, obstructing justice, criminal contempt, and two counts of destroying property. Following a jury trial, Baker was acquitted of assault, but convicted on the remaining counts. He now appeals claiming that his convictions for criminal contempt and destruction of property should be reversed. We affirm.


Baker had a romantic relationship with complainant Inti Boggs. Shortly after the couple began dating in May 2001, Baker and Boggs started living together at Boggs' home in Laurel, Maryland. Baker was physically abusive throughout the relationship and Boggs filed several reports detailing that abuse with Maryland police. Although Boggs left Baker a number of times, the two eventually would reconcile. By August 2003, the relationship had soured beyond repair.

On August 20, 2003, Baker began sending threatening messages to Boggs on her cellular phone, calling her between six and twelve times that day. Each message became increasingly more threatening. Boggs played the messages to a co-worker at Ozio's Cigar Bar and Lounge, located at 1813 M Street, N.W., which included statements that Baker knew where to find Boggs and that he planned to kill her. Later that evening, Boggs played the same message for Officer Anthony Baker, a member of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). On that same date, Boggs' manager, Frank Vinueza, noticed Baker drive past the establishment approximately twenty times during the evening.*fn2

Based on the threatening messages from Baker, MPD Detective Williams contacted Boggs and requested that she press charges, but she indicated that she did not wish to do so. Detective Williams then informed her that she would need to complete paperwork at the station whether she pressed charges or not. While Boggs was on her way to the station, Baker phoned her, instructing her to "undo" whatever she had done, or he would "make [her] life a living hell." That same afternoon, Vinueza discovered obscene and slanderous phrases regarding Boggs that had been spray-painted across the exterior walls of 1813 M Street, the lettering extending to the building next door.*fn3 At trial, Boggs identified the spray-painted lettering as Baker's distinctive handwriting.

On August 22, 2003, a day when Boggs was not working, Ozio's security staff noticed Baker inside the bathroom of the restaurant and they asked him to leave. He refused. The security staff restrained Baker until the police arrived*fn4 and placed him under arrest. After he was arrested, a black marker pen was removed from his pocket. A staff member returned to the bathroom and discovered language, similar to that which had been spray painted on the bar's exterior walls, written in two places in the bathroom.*fn5 On August 25, Boggs sought a restraining order against Baker in the District Court of Prince George's County, Maryland and the court issued a stay-away order.

Sometime during the morning of August 29, Boggs filed threats charges in the District of Columbia against Baker. That evening while Boggs was at work, Vinueza noticed Baker's white Lexus drive by the restaurant. Later, an employee saw Baker go into the nearby garage where Boggs had parked her car. Police were summoned, and they discovered Baker inside the garage holding a can of spray paint. The officers found obscene and slanderous phrases written in black spray paint all over Boggs' vehicle.*fn6

On August 30, 2003, Baker was charged in the District with threatening to injure/kidnap persons in violation of D.C. Code § 22-1810 (2001).*fn7 On September 2, an amended complaint was filed, charging Baker with destruction of property in excess of $200.*fn8 At that time, the government dismissed the felony threats charge. The trial court then conducted a pre-trial detention hearing, and held Baker without bond. At the government's request, the trial court preventively detained Baker under D.C. Code § 23-1322 (b)(1)(C) and orally ordered Baker "to have no contact whatsoever directly or indirectly" with Boggs. Subsequently a ten-count indictment was returned, which included a contempt charge, based on Baker's asserted violation of this order for sending letters to Boggs while he was incarcerated.*fn9

Cell phone records admitted into evidence showed that Baker had called Boggs' cellular phone or home telephone a number of times between August 18 and August 30. While incarcerated, Baker also wrote Boggs several letters. Four of those letters were admitted into evidence, which Boggs identified as being in Baker's handwriting. These letters were the basis for the criminal contempt charge.

At the close of evidence during the trial, the court questioned whether the contempt instruction should contain language that Baker's disobedience of the court's order must have caused an obstruction to the orderly administration of justice. Defense counsel argued that In re Gorfkle, 444 A.2d 934 (D.C. 1982), controlled and requested that the jury instructions contain language stating that Baker must have committed a willful act that "show[ed] disrespect for the court or to disrupt its proceedings." The trial court ruled, however, that Grant v. United States, 734 A.2d 174 (D.C. 1999), was more apposite, distinguishing between a disruption or interference committed in the presence of the court as was the case in Gorfkle, and disobedience of a court order outside the presence of the court which occurred in Grant. Although the trial court noted that Grant did not perfectly apply to the instant circumstances, it determined the principles set forth in Grant could be extrapolated to Baker's case.*fn10 Defense counsel did not object, but later moved for judgment of acquittal on the ...

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