United States v. Bachmeier, 2021 WL 3575331 (9th Cir. 2021)
Perhaps as often as I’ve said, “talk nice, think mean,” I’ve also observed that, “we catch the dumb ones.” Steven Curtis Bachmeier isn’t in the running to prove me wrong. If only he had talked nice and silently thought mean.
Over a decade ago, Bachmeier was convicted of various crimes. During a telephonic hearing, Bachmeier repeatedly called Judge Anna Moran offensive names. Judge Moran warned him to stop, but Bachmeier yelled a graphic and specific threat to gravely harm Judge Moran’s family, before Judge Moran muted him. Life went on for Bachmeier inside the state prison.
Seven years later, Bachmeier filed a pro se name change petition in the Superior Court while still in state custody. (“Pro se” means that Bachmeier represented himself. If only he’d heeded the counsel of Abraham Lincoln: “A man who represents himself, has a fool for a client.”) In the course of normal court procedure, Bachmeier’s petition was randomly assigned to a Superior Court judge. In the course of normal karma, the case was randomly assigned to Judge Moran. Bachmeier had previously obtained judicial reassignments in prior instances when Judge Moran was assigned to his case. This time, however, the deadline to request reassignment passed before Bachmeier learned of Judge Moran’s assignment.
“A rational jury could conclude that Bachmeier’s request was addressed to a natural person…The Courthouse’s walls and windows were not the addressee; someone inside was the intended recipient.”
Bachmeier mailed a letter addressed to the “Courthouse.” The letter read, in his own words: “Am requesting to cancel this proceeding. I never got a notice of judicial assignment. I would of struck Moran from this case as I have told her in the past Im going to kill her family which I still entend to do. Therefore she cannot be impartial. I will refile and this court will give me notice of judicial assignment, or els.” Nothing like a little salt in the judicial wound. Bachmeier likely has not read How to Win Friends and Influence Judges.
Federal prosecutors charged Bachmeier under 18 U.S.C. 876(c) for mailing a threatening communication. Bachmeier tried to convince the federal judge (without accompanying death threats) his request was addressed to the courthouse, not a natural person as the federal law requires. The court denied Bachmeier’s request to instruct the jury that the jurors were required to find “Bachmeier subjectively intended to threaten” Judge Moran. The jury found Bachmeier guilty as charged.
The court of appeals affirmed his conviction. The court held that “a rational jury could conclude that Bachmeier’s request was addressed to a natural person…The Courthouse’s walls and windows were not the addressee; someone inside was the intended recipient.” After Bachmeier finishes his state time, he gets a do-over in federal prison. But he might also just get a name change. Suggestions?
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