United States v. Chhun, No. 10-50296 (9th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Defendant, a native of Cambodia and a tax preparer in the United States, was the president of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF), an organization formed for the purpose of removing Prime Minister Hun Sen from power and becoming the controlling party in Cambodia. After CFF committed a series of small-scale attacks on Cambodian establishments, defendant participated in a CFF plan to attack government buildings protected by government forces in Phnom Phenh (Operation Volcano). In this appeal, defendant challenged his convictions for conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country in violation of 18 U.S.C. 956(a), conspiracy to damage or destroy property in a foreign country in violation of 18 U.S.C. 956(b), and expedition against a friendly nation in violation of 18 U.S.C. 960. The court concluded that section 956(a), enacted as part of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 110 Stat. 1214, 1294-95, was not ambiguous, and therefore, defendant was correctly convicted under the statute; there was sufficient evidence for a factfinder to conclude that defendant had the intent to commit murder; the district court did not plainly err in its jury instruction when it defined "at peace" as the absence of "war" or "military conflict," and thereby required "military conflict" to end the state of "peace" for the purposes of sections 956(b) and 960; the district court's failure to instruct the jury to find an overt act that occurred within the five-year limitations period did not affect defendant's substantial rights; the district court did not commit error in sentencing defendant to life in prison; and defendant's sentence was not substantively unreasonable. Accordingly, the court affirmed defendant's convictions and sentence.