Lamont D. ROBERTS, Appellant,
UNITED STATES, Appellee.
May 1, 2019
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(CF3-14048-15) (Hon. Juliet J. McKenna, Trial Judge)
A. Persico, Washington, for appellant. Sydney J. Hoffman also
filed briefs for appellant.
Gabriel, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Jessie
K. Liu, United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman,
Chrisellen R. Kolb, Youli Lee, and Jessica Brooks, Assistant
United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.
Glickman, Thompson, and McLeese, Associate Judges.
Appellant Lamont Roberts was found guilty at trial of
stalking, threats, assault, and unlawful disclosure of sexual
images. Mr. Roberts argues that his unlawful-disclosure
convictions must be reversed due to instructional error and
that his unlawful-disclosure and threats convictions were not
supported by sufficient evidence. We hold that in one respect
the jury was erroneously instructed on the elements of
unlawful disclosure. On that basis, we vacate four of Mr.
Robertss unlawful-disclosure convictions but affirm the
fifth, as to which the instructional error was harmless. We
hold that there was sufficient evidence to support all of the
unlawful-disclosure convictions, and we therefore remand for
further proceedings as to the convictions vacated for
instructional error. Finally, we affirm the threats
pertinent part, the evidence at trial was as follows. Mr.
Roberts and L.H. first met in 2013 and then became
romantically involved. L.H. enjoyed the relationship at
first. Over time, however, the relationship began to change.
Mr. Roberts started to engage in controlling behavior. He
stopped taking L.H. to social gatherings, told her not to
wear certain clothing that might attract attention, and began
to check in frequently on her whereabouts. When L.H. did not
quickly return Mr. Robertss calls or text messages, he would
show up unannounced at her work or at the row house she
shared with her mother and children and honk his car horn
until she came out. Quite a few times, L.H. became so
uncomfortable with and annoyed by Mr. Robertss behavior that
she broke up with him. These breakups did not last for long.
Mr. Roberts would apologize and beg for L.H. to take him back
and L.H., who loved Mr. Roberts and wanted him to change,
would agree to get back together.
a particularly uncomfortable altercation in December 2013,
L.H. wanted to end the relationship with Mr. Roberts
permanently and therefore obtained a civil protection order
against him. In July 2014, Mr. Roberts showed up at the
parking lot at L.H.s place of work. As L.H. was getting into
her car, Mr. Roberts pulled in, and the two argued through
their car windows. When L.H. pulled out of the parking lot,
Mr. Roberts followed her and eventually pulled up alongside
her. The two had a heated exchange that ended with Mr.
Roberts throwing a soda can from his car into the open
drivers side window of L.H.s car before speeding off.
Although L.H. reported this incident to the police, she also
decided shortly thereafter to get back together with Mr.
in July 2014, after L.H. and Mr. Roberts had resumed their
relationship, Mr. Roberts pulled up in front of L.H.s home
while L.H. was sitting in a car with a male family friend.
Mr. Roberts asked L.H. to get out of the car, saying that the
two of them needed to talk. When L.H. refused, Mr. Roberts
retrieved a baseball bat from his trunk and told L.H.,
"Youre going to get out of the car. Bitch, you think
this is a joke, youre going to get out of the car."
L.H. still did not get out of the car and her mother, who had
heard the commotion and had come out of the house, called the
police. Mr. Roberts appeared to be so mad when he approached
the car with the bat that L.H.s mother feared that he would
have done "terrible bodily damage"
to L.H. had L.H.s family friend let Mr. Roberts open the car
continued to be romantically involved with Mr. Roberts for
some time after this incident, but by May or June 2015 she
decided to end the relationship for good. At first, Mr.
Roberts did not appear to take the breakup seriously and
engaged in the same sort of calling, apologizing, and
randomly showing up at L.H.s home that he had engaged in
during the couples previous breakups. After Mr. Roberts saw
L.H. arrive home with another man, however, Mr. Robertss
behavior changed. Mr. Roberts started calling and texting
L.H. more frequently, sometimes as many as 150 to 200 times a
day. He also sent her text messages and emails, and left her
voicemails, with angry and aggressive language.
August 22, 2015, Mr. Roberts left L.H. a voicemail in which
he stated: "When I see you baby, Im a try to kill you
Bitch. You gonna sleep with another n**a, dont talk to
nobody else. You the only girl I love, watch when I see
you." (This communication was the basis for the first
threats count.) On August 28, 2015, Mr. Roberts left L.H.
So fuck me, right, so fuck me and you with another fucking
n**a, Im-a tell you ..., you better have all my money, the
purse and all of that. Im going to make your life a living
fucking hell. Watch man. I went and got your name on me about
8 times, thinking you with another n**a. You going to answer,
(This communication was the basis for the second threats
count.) On October 3, 2015, Mr. Roberts sent L.H. an email
that read: "So u have been to party with him rite Ill
see u tomorrow bitch die with your mother and kids."
(This communication was the basis for the third threats
this same time period, Mr. Roberts began telling L.H. that he
was going to post nude photos that he had taken of her with
his phone during their relationship. L.H. described the
photos as follows. The first photo was a close-up of L.H.s
vagina. The second was of L.H. from behind while she was
lying on her stomach across a bed with her legs crossed. The
third was from the same angle as the second but without
L.H.s legs crossed and with her vagina visible. (It is
unclear whether, in describing the photos, L.H. was using the
term "vagina" in its precise anatomical sense or
more colloquially to refer to the vulva.)
Although L.H. had been aware that Mr. Roberts had taken the
photos, she had told him to delete them immediately after
they were taken and believed that she had seen him do so.
L.H. only learned that Mr. Roberts had not in fact deleted
the photos when he included them as attachments to numerous
text messages and emails he sent her in September and October
morning of October 3, 2015, L.H. received an email from Mr.
Roberts which said, "Enjoy it on bitch[.]" A short
time later, L.H.s mother heard a knock at the front door.
When she opened the door, she found a sexually explicit photo
of L.H. taped to the door. L.H.s mother removed the photo
from the door and gave it to L.H., who in turn gave it to the
police. L.H. identified the photo as being one of the photos
that Mr. Roberts took of her from behind while she was nude.
(This incident was the basis for the first
following day, L.H. went to a laundromat near her home to do
laundry. After bending down to transfer clothes from the
washing machine to the dryer, L.H. looked up to find Mr.
Roberts standing over her. L.H. told Mr. Roberts to leave and
warned him that he could not do anything to her in the
other people were present. After Mr. Roberts left, L.H. went
out to the parking lot and found an explicit picture of
herself -- which she identified as "the butt one"
-- on the windshield of her car. The picture had L.H.s name
written on it. She immediately took the picture off the
window, and as she did so she saw Mr. Roberts sitting in his
car in the parking lot. L.H. yelled at Mr. Roberts and took
pictures of him with her phone as he rolled down his window,
laughed at her, and waved a stack of extra copies of the
explicit images he had taken of her. L.H. testified that she
was yelling and hysterical during this interaction and that
people other than her and Mr. Roberts were watching. L.H.
told Mr. Roberts that she was calling the police and then did
so. A police officer arrived about ten minutes later, by
which time Mr. Roberts had left. The incident left L.H. angry
and in tears. (This incident was the basis for the second
police officer stayed with L.H. for about fifteen minutes,
until L.H. was nearly done with her laundry, and then left. A
few minutes later, L.H. left the laundromat and saw Mr.
Roberts drive up in his car as she pulled out. Mr. Roberts
made a U-turn and began to follow L.H. When L.H. stopped at a
traffic light, Mr. Roberts pulled up alongside her and held a
stack of explicit photos of her out of his open driver-side
window. L.H. took pictures of Mr. Roberts as he did this.
There were other cars around, and the light at which L.H. and
Mr. Roberts were stopped was right next to the shopping
center where the laundromat was located. When the light
turned green, Mr. Roberts drove off. (This incident was the
basis for the third unlawful-disclosure count.)
following evening, on October 5, 2015, L.H. received an email
from Mr. Roberts which said, "Bring my stuff outside or
get pic off pole." One of the explicit photos of L.H.
was attached to the email. L.H. looked outside and saw that a
piece of paper was folded and tucked into her front gate.
L.H.s gate, which is about twenty feet from her front door,
opens onto the sidewalk of the residential street where she
lives. The piece of paper was stuck in the gate in the same
way that someone might place a "carry-out flyer,"
and was accessible to anyone walking by. L.H. retrieved the
piece of paper, saw that it was an explicit photo of her,
took it inside her house, tore it up before her children
could see it, and then called the police. (This incident was
the basis for the fourth unlawful-disclosure count.)
days later, on October 7, 2015, at around 8 a.m., L.H. was
leaving her house to take her children to school when she
noticed a white sheet of paper on the windshield of her car.
L.H. told her children to go back into the house and then
crossed the street to where her car was parked. After
recognizing that the paper on the windshield was an explicit
image of her, she took a photo of how the image was placed on
her car and then removed the image and saved it. L.H.
testified that she had last seen her car the preceding night
and that she was not sure when the image had been placed on
the windshield. A police officer who patrols L.H.s
neighborhood testified that traffic is "very heavy"
on L.H.s street during the morning commute from as early as
6 a.m. onward. (This incident was the basis for the fifth
turn first to Mr. Robertss challenges to the jury
instruction defining the elements of unlawful disclosure. Mr.
Roberts raises two objections: that the instruction
erroneously defined the term "disclose" and that
the instruction failed to state that any disclosure had to be
someone other than L.H. We agree with Mr. Robertss second
claim of error but not his first. We further conclude that
the error requires vacation of four of Mr. Robertss five
unlawful-disclosure statute, D.C. Code § 22-3052 (2019
Supp.), provides in pertinent part that
(a) It shall be unlawful in the District of Columbia for a
person to knowingly disclose one or more sexual images of