Lamont D. Roberts, Appellant,
United States, Appellee.
May 1, 2019
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(CF3-14048-15) Hon. Juliet J. McKenna, Trial Judge.
Deborah A. Persico for appellant. Sydney J. Hoffman also
filed briefs for appellant.
Elizabeth 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
Glickman, Thompson, and McLeese, Associate Judges.
McLeese, Associate Judge.
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.
Roberts's 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. Roberts's 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. Roberts's 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.
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 driver's 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. Roberts.
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., "You're going to get out of the car. Bitch,
you think this is a joke, you're 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 door.
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 couple's previous breakups. After Mr. Roberts
saw L.H. arrive home with another man, however, Mr.
Roberts's 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, I'm a try to kill
you Bitch. You gonna sleep with another n**a, don't 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, I'm-a tell you . . ., you better have all my money,
the purse and all of that. I'm 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, watch.
(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
I'll see u tomorrow bitch die with your mother and
kids." (This communication was the basis for the third
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.)
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
laundromat where 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 unlawful-disclosure count.)
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
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
first to Mr. Roberts's 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 to
someone other than L.H. We agree with Mr. Roberts's
second claim of error but not his first. We further conclude
that the error requires vacation of four of Mr. Roberts's
five unlawful-disclosure convictions.
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