BOWMAN, Circuit Judge.
Odell Whitfield appeals his conviction and his sentence for mailing threatening letters to a magistrate judge in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 876 (1988). We affirm.
In March 1986, Whitfield made a preliminary appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Celeste F. Bremer
In January 1992, Whitfield was charged with ten counts of harassment under Iowa law based on ten of the letters he had sent to Judge Bremer. The county attorney and Whitfield ultimately agreed to a deferred prosecution: if Whitfield did not write or contact Judge Bremer for a one-year period the charges would be dismissed. Whitfield complied with the agreement, and the charges were dismissed.
On August 11, 1993, Judge Bremer received a packet containing several letters from Whitfield. These letters again suggested that Whitfield desired a sexual relationship with Judge Bremer. In one of the letters Whitfield wrote that his love for Judge Bremer was "driving [him] insane" and that it was difficult to love someone "you can't see or touch or hug and kiss when you want to." Letter from Odell Whitfield to Judge Bremer 6 (Aug. 8, 1993) (filed as Government's Exhibit 1 in the District Court). He also wrote, "You are my most desired goal, and I will Stop at nothing to reach you." Id. at 7.
Based on this last group of letters, Whitfield was indicted on one count of forcibly assaulting, resisting, impeding, intimidating or interfering with a United States Magistrate Judge in the performance of her official duties in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111(a) (1988) and one count of mailing threatening letters to a United States Magistrate Judge in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 876. At the conclusion of the government's case-in-chief, the District Court
In appealing his conviction, Whitfield argues that the District Court erred by denying his motion for judgment of acquittal as to the 18 U.S.C. § 876 charge and abused its discretion in excluding certain evidence offered by Whitfield at trial.
In evaluating threats under 18 U.S.C. § 876, we have held that "[i]f a reasonable recipient, familiar with the context of the communication, would interpret it as a threat, the issue should go to the jury." United States v. Bellrichard, 994 F.2d 1318, 1323-24 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 114 S.Ct. 337, 126 L.Ed.2d 282 (1993) (quoting Martin v. United States, 691 F.2d 1235, 1240 (8th Cir.1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1211, 103 S.Ct. 1207, 75 L.Ed.2d 447 (1983)). When determining whether a reasonable person would feel threatened, we must review the "totality of the circumstances in which the communication was made." Id. at 1323. At trial, Judge Bremer testified that she considered the letters as a threat to sexually assault her. Judge Bremer had received over sixty letters from Whitfield. In these letters, Whitfield sent poems containing explicit sexual references, described elaborate fantasy dates, and, in one letter, included two photocopied pages from a romance novel that described a forcible sexual encounter. This seven-and-one-half-year history made it clear that Whitfield desired a sexual relationship with Bremer, the final letter stating he "would stop at nothing to reach" her. Bremer also was aware that Whitfield had engaged in felonious criminal conduct in the past, had some type of mental disorder, and had carried a gun. Moreover, Bremer knew that on at least one occasion Whitfield had travelled to Des Moines to attempt to meet with her, had called her home, and had exhibited a remarkable persistence in pursuing the desired relationship despite two visits from the FBI and the state harassment charges. After carefully evaluating the "totality of the circumstances," we conclude that Judge Bremer reasonably interpreted the letters as a threat, and the count properly was submitted to the jury. See Martin, 691 F.2d at 1240 (holding that whether language constitutes a threat is an issue of fact for the jury).
Whitfield next argues that the District Court abused its discretion by excluding testimony regarding a conversation between an FBI agent and an Assistant U.S. Attorney concerning the prior uncharged letters. He further contends that the District Court abused its discretion by excluding the testimony of Dr. Michael Taylor who would have testified that Whitfield does not present a danger to Judge Bremer. We give great deference to a district court's rulings on admissibility of evidence and will reverse only if the court has committed a clear abuse of discretion. United States v. Jackson, 914 F.2d 1050, 1053 (8th Cir.1990). As to the excluded discussion between the FBI agent and the Assistant U.S. Attorney, we observe that whether one Assistant U.S. Attorney believed that federal charges could be maintained against Whitfield in 1992 is not relevant to the issue of whether the letters sent in 1993 constitute a threat. As to Whitfield's expert, testimony concerning whether Whitfield actually presents a danger to Judge Bremer is not probative of the issue of whether a reasonable recipient, knowing what she knew about the writer of the letters, would have interpreted them as a threat.
Whitfield also appeals his sentence, arguing that the District Court erred by refusing to grant him a two-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility under U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1 (Nov. 1993). We accord
For the reasons stated, Whitfield's conviction and sentence are affirmed.