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1628

Protection of a Member of Federal Official's Family -- 18 U.S.C. § 115

Section 115(a)(1) of Title 18 makes it a Federal crime to assault, kidnap, or murder a family member of certain Federal officials. It also covers attempts to kidnap or murder and threats to assault, kidnap or murder such family members. Such violent acts must be done "with the intent to impede, intimidate, or interfere with" such Federal official "while engaged in the performance of official duties, or with intent to retaliate against" such Federal official.

When § 115 was enacted in 1984, the Senate Judiciary Committee Report stated that it was not the intent of this provision to make Federal jurisdiction over the enumerated crimes exclusive, but to reflect the Federal interest in responding to terrorists and other criminals who would seek to influence the making of Federal policies and interfere with the administration of justice by attacking close relatives of those entrusted with those tasks. See S. Rep. No. 225, 98th Cong., 1st Sess. p. 320, reprinted in 1984 U.S. Code Cong. and Adm. News 3496. In many instances, a crime against a family member of a Federal official, even if prompted by a defendant's opposition to policies implemented by the official, can be adequately handled by State and local authorities without Federal involvement.

In 1988, section 115 was also made applicable to those who assault, kidnap, murder or attempt to kidnap or murder family members of certain former Federal officials. See § 115(a)(2).

Section 115(a)(1)(B) of Title 18 covers threats against Federal officials or their family members when such threat is done "with intent to impede, intimidate, or interfere with" such Federal official "while engaged in the performance of official duties, or with intent to retaliate against" such Federal official. See United States v. Raymer, 685 F. Supp. 1358 (S.D. Miss. 1988), aff'd, 876 F.2d 383 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 870 (1989).

The purpose of these provisions is to provide comprehensive protection against attempts to impede, intimidate, or interfere with certain Federal officials' performance of their duties by the commission of crimes against members of the officials' immediate families or by threats to assault, murder, or kidnap the officials themselves. In cases of threats, the only intent requirement is that the government prove the defendant intentionally or knowingly communicates the threat, not that he/she intended or was able to carry out the threat. See United States v. Orozco-Santillan, 903 F.2d 1262 (9th Cir. 1990).

On April 24, 1996, § 727(a) of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, § 727(a), Pub. L. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, 1302, amended § 1114 of Title 18 so that now all employees of all branches, departments, and agencies of the United States Government, including active duty military personnel, are covered under § 1114. Consequently, it should be noted that family members of all Federal employees are now protected by §  115(a)(1) against assault, kidnapping, and murder, as well as attempts to kidnap or threats to assault, kidnap, or murder. Furthermore, all current Federal employees are now covered under § 115(a)(2) against threats done with intent to impede, intimidate, or interfere with such Federal employee while engaged in the performance of official duties, or with intent to retaliate against such Federal employee. In addition, § 115(a)(2)) of Title 18 was expanded, as of April 24, 1996, to cover the assault, kidnapping, or murder, as well as attempts to kidnap or murder and threats to assault, kidnap, or murder, any former Federal employee "with intent to retaliate against such person on account of the performance of official duties." See Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, § 727(b), Pub. L. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, 1302. Accordingly, the family members of all former Federal employees are now covered under § 115 against assault or murder, including any attempt to assault or murder, directed towards them on or after April 24, 1996, provided such act was done with intent to retaliate against the former Federal employee on account of the performance of his/her official duties during the term of his/her Federal service.

[cited in Criminal Resource Manual 1564; USAM 9-65.900]