Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Diner Out

United States v. Iodice, No. 06-2680-cr (2d Cir. May 6, 2008) (Straub, Pooler, Sotomayor, CJJ).

John Iodice appealed his arson conviction on the ground that there was insufficient evidence of the requisite nexus to interstate commerce. The circuit affirmed.

The building that Iodice torched had been, at one time, a diner. Its owner had purchased it, vacant, eighteen months before the fire. The diner was “complete and ready to open,” and, but for the fire, the owner was planning to move and reopen it six months later. A co-conspirator testified that the fire was intended to destroy the diner and prevent competition with another one already located near the new location.

The court rejected Iodice’s claim that the diner was not “used in” interstate commerce, as required by 18 U.S.C. § 844(i). The diner was a commercial building that was only temporarily inoperative. “[T]emporarily vacant buildings” can have a sufficient connection to commerce “as long as there was evidence at trial of sufficiently definite plant to return the property to the stream of commerce.” Here, the evidence of the owner’s future plans, coupled with the motive for the fire, sufficed.

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