from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Michigan at Detroit. No. 2:17-mc-50667-01-Mark A.
Goldsmith, District Judge.
Colleen P. Fitzharris, FEDERAL DEFENDER OFFICE, Detroit,
Michigan, for Appellant.
Benjamin C. Coats, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE,
Detroit, Michigan, for Appellee.
Before: COLE, Chief Judge; SUTTON and LARSEN, Circuit Judges.
all been frustrated at one time or another by red tape. Fewer
of us have grown frustrated because of tape in a more literal
sense. But it was tape-or, really, the lack of tape-that
sparked the encounter we consider in this matter. Upset by
postal employees and their refusal to provide him with tape
to seal a box, Ramess Nakhleh engaged in an escalating series
of acts that distracted postal workers, interfered in their
ability to serve customers, and culminated in an implied bomb
threat and the post office's brief closure. In so doing,
Nakhleh violated a regulation prohibiting disturbances in a
post office-in particular, a regulation that prohibits
"conduct that creates loud and unusual noise" in a
post office or that otherwise impedes or disturbs postal
operations. We affirm.
walked into a Highland Park post office two years ago on a
mission that is, at least for now, routine for many of us: he
wanted to mail a package. With his package in hand, he
marched to the counter, put his package in a window, and told
the postal employee that he wanted to return his box to the
sender. Three problems stood in his way.
first problem: the package was still open. After Nakhleh put
his box in the window, one postal employee told him that he
would have to tape his box closed to send it. Nakhleh had
"tons of tape in [his] house" but did not have tape
with him, and the postal employee told him that she could not
give him tape for free. Trial Tr., R. 2, PageID 67. The post
office sold tape, but one of the employees advised Nakhleh
that it would be cheaper to buy tape elsewhere. Heeding this
advice, Nakhleh left the post office to buy tape, returned,
and after seeking reimbursement for the tape
(unsuccessfully), sealed his package.
the first problem, however, gave rise to a second: Nakhleh
had lost his shipping label. A postal worker advised Nakhleh
(correctly, it would turn out) to check for the label inside
the now-sealed box. Nakhleh took a moment to accuse the
workers of deliberately hiding it, but he eventually accepted
the suggestion to look inside the box, where he found the
came the third problem: Nakhleh refused to touch the label
and affix it to the box because, in his words, "it's
got pollutant on it." Id. at 34. One of the
postal workers told Nakhleh that they could not accept the
package unless he affixed the label to it and resealed it,
but he still refused. Another customer eventually affixed the
label and taped the box together. Nakhleh advised him,
"Hey, man, you better wash your hands because it's
pollutant on the label." Id. at 36.
all this, the post office processed Nakhleh's package,
and Nakhleh left. He had not gone far, though, when he
decided to return. Upset-and armed with an audio recorder
which he used to record a portion of his interaction-Nakhleh
went back to the window at the counter and asked for his
package. When an employee told him that she could not return
his package because it had already been processed, Nakhleh
became loud and irate. He walked back and forth among the
windows at the postal counter, taking photos and asking
employees for their names. Because of Nakhleh's behavior,
the employees were unable to serve other customers in the
post office. One employee, witnessing Nakhleh's
"belligerent" behavior, called the police.
escalated. When the police arrived and asked Nakhleh what he
needed from his package, Nakhleh replied (twice), "What
if it's a bomb?" Id. at 16. After that
statement, the police arrested Nakhleh and evacuated the post
office. The post office was closed to customers for two hours
while a Postal Inspector examined the package and concluded
it did not contain a bomb. That same Inspector interviewed
Nakhleh, who acknowledged that he understood the statement
"was a bad decision" and said that he made it out
of frustration. Id. at 63.
was presented with a violation notice charging him with
causing a disturbance in a post office, a violation of 39
C.F.R. § 232.1(e) made criminal by 18 U.S.C. §
3061(c)(4)(B). After a one-day bench trial, he was found
guilty by a magistrate judge, sentenced to six months'
probation with anger management treatment, ...