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United States v. Miller

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Fort Campbell

July 15, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ASHLEY MILLER, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION ACQUITTING DEFENDANT OF CHARGED OFFENSE

LANNY KING, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon the parties' post-trial briefs following bench trial on May 6, 2015. Docket Numbers 7 and 8. Defendant was charged with shoplifting a pair of sunglasses and a pair of earrings having a value of $107.00 in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641 ("theft of government property"). The alleged offense occurred in the Army Post Exchange (PX) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on October 16, 2014.

18 U.S.C. § 641 makes it a crime to "steal[], purloin[], or knowingly convert[] to [one's own] use... any... thing of value of the United States."[1] Section 641 is the federal-law codification of common-law larceny, which is essentially theft or stealing, and is "among the earliest offenses known to the law that existed before legislation." Morissette v. United States, 342 U.S. 246, 260 (1952).

For the reasons below, the Court finds Defendant NOT GUILTY due to reasonable doubt as to whether her actions in the PX, which otherwise would have constituted a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641, were accompanied by the required criminal intent.

Effect of Prescription Medication

Defendant is married to a soldier stationed at Fort Campbell. She has two children, ages 3 and 7. She suffers severe degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine. An accident in early 2014 resulted in a bulging or pinching of the cervical disc space into the spinal cord at the C4 and C5 levels. Defendant's Testimony, Audio Recording 49:00.

Defendant is in excruciating pain, spends a great deal of time in bed, and requires a neck brace if in an upright posture for extended periods.

From early 2014, until the incident on October 16, 2014, Defendant's physicians were aggressively attempting to treat her chronic pain. Prescribed medications changed on a frequent basis.

On October 16, 2014, Defendant had prescriptions for: 50 microgram Fentanyl patch[2], 7.5 milligram Percocet[3], Zonisamide[4], Restoril[5], and Adderall[6], but she was not taking her Adderall.

Defendant testified that this potent cocktail of medication was affecting her in profound ways: She felt "heavy" and "stupid" most of the time. 57:00. She had difficulty following even simple conversation and often had no recollection of her actions. She was doing absent-minded things on a regular basis such as misplacing objects, forgetting about food cooking on the stove, putting cereal in the dog food bowl, and putting food in the dog's water bowl.

Defendant's husband testified that, on October 16, 2014, he discovered that she had placed the milk in the pantry instead of the refrigerator. She was also making more significant mistakes such as forgetting to pick up the children at the bus stop and pay the bills on time. According to Mr. Miller, the medication seemed to be "taking over [Defendant's] mind and body, " she was becoming "someone I'm not familiar with." 1:22.

Incident at the PX

On October 16, 2014, Defendant entered the PX to do some shopping while waiting on some prescription medication being filled. Surveillance camera and recording revealed that she spent some time observing a pair of sunglasses that did not have a price tag. She put the sunglasses on her head and continued shopping. She selected a pair of earrings, put them in her shopping cart, and continued shopping. She selected some clothes, put them in the cart, parked the cart outside the dressing room, and entered the dressing room.

While she was in the dressing room, a store employee acting in coordination with surveillance verified that the earrings were no longer in the cart. Within minutes after Defendant had departed the dressing room, an employee located, in the dressing room, a heart-shaped backing to which the missing earrings had been mounted. The backing, which also contained the price tag, was discovered in a slot in the wall of the ...


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