9th Cir. Upholds Jail Rapist’s Conviction

     (CN) – The Ninth Circuit affirmed an Alaska inmate’s conviction under a federal law criminalizing sexual assaults in facilities where federal inmates are held by state and local authorities.
     Sabil Mumin Mujahid argued his federal convictions for four counts of sexual abuse and three counts of abusive sexual contact while an inmate at the Anchorage Correctional Complex was unconstitutional because the state had jurisdiction.
     Mujahid, representing himself, said Congress improperly passed the 2006 amendment to the Prison Rape Elimination Act that extended statutory reach to cover sexual abuse that occurs in state and local institutions where federal detainees are held.
     In his appeal, Mujahid said “police power” belongs to the states.
     On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit denied Mujahid’s appeal and found the law is constitutional.
     Circuit Judge Morgan Christen, writing for the panel, said sexual assault by and against prison inmates is “a distressing and pernicious problem” and Congress has the authority to criminalize sexual assaults in state and local prisons where federal inmates are held.
     “Congress has a strong interest in and obligation to create a safe environment for federal prisoners and those housed with federal prisoners, including by preventing sexual assaults. To do anything less would risk denying prisoners their Eighth Amendment rights,” Christen wrote.
     The panel held the federal law does not override state legislation addressing the same topic, but creates “concurrent and complementary jurisdiction.”
     “Mujahid argues the statutes are unnecessary because all 50 states criminalize sex offenses. But even if this is true, there is no guarantee a state will choose to prosecute an offense committed by or against a federal prisoner that occurs in a state prison, and at any rate, Congress’ power is not dependent on state inaction,” Christen wrote.
     In a footnote, Christen compared Mujahid’s argument that the government had to prove a contract existed with state authorities to hold federal inmates to “a requirement in a federal bank robbery prosecution that the government prove the bank is FDIC-insured to the jury, even if the facts are undisputed.”

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