Sex, lies and chemical weapons abound in this soap opera thriller turned Supreme Court debate over federal authority, with Carol Anne Laletta Bond at the center.
Bond, a Barbados native, was excited when her closest friend, Myrlinda Haynes, announced she was pregnant. Bond's excitement turned to rage when she learned that her husband of 14 years, Clifford Bond, was the child's father. She vowed revenge, according to a federal appeals court summary.
Bond, 40, who worked as a microbiologist outside Philadelphia, stole arsenic-based chemicals from her company and ordered potassium dichromate on the Internet.
In large doses, both chemicals can be lethal if ingested or exposed to the skin.
Judging on the attempts that followed, it can't be said that Bond has an 007 at the end of her name. Over the next several months, Bond tried at least 24 times to poison Haynes. Her attempts included placing chemicals in Haynes' car muffler, sprinkling chemicals on door knobs and car door handles. Bond also tried stealing mail and putting chemicals inside Haynes' mailbox.
Haynes suffered only a chemical burn on one thumb but became suspicious, as one of the chemicals was bright orange. She called the police, who told her to wipe her doorknobs and car regularly. When she found the chemicals in her mailbox, she contacted the U.S. Postal Service. Federal postal inspectors set up surveillance cameras, which caught Bond in the act.
"[Bond] wasn't intending to kill her or poison her," said Robert E. Goldman, Bond's attorney. "The intent was to cause her skin irritation to heal some of Bond's pain. The chemicals were also found spilled throughout my client's car, and the point is that she herself didn't think they were so toxic, as she was treating them so casually."
Haynes was not seriously injured.
Postal inspectors arrested Bond and turned the case over to a federal grand jury in Pennsylvania instead of handing her over to state prosecutors. Bond was indicted on two counts of mail theft and two counts of possessing and using a chemical weapon, in violation of federal anti-terrorism law created to fulfill the U.S.'s international treaty obligations under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. Bond pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in prison.
"Assault cases are typically handled by state prosecutors. Had that occurred, Ms. Bond would have faced a sentence of six months to a year. Instead, federal prosecutors charged her under the federal chemical weapons statute, which was passed pursuant to a treaty and was intended to combat international terrorism and the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction. Under that statute, she faced incarceration of at least six years," said Goldman.
Arguing that the federal statute was unconstitutional and inappropriate in this circumstance, and that federal prosecutors risked invalidation of the statute by using it this way, Bond's attorneys offered to plead guilty for Bond in state court. But their request to transfer the case was denied.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that as an individual or "private party," Bond lacked the standing to challenge the constitutionality of the statute based on the Tenth Amendment.
The Supreme Court Weighs In
The case is now before the Supreme Court, which is debating the broad wording of the chemical weapons statute.
"Suppose [Bond] decided to retaliate against her former friend by pouring a bottle of vinegar in the friend's goldfish bowl. As I read this statute, that would be a violation of this statute, potentially punishable by life imprisonment, wouldn't it?" Federal Justice Samuel Alito said, according to The Associated Press.
"A win on what is presently before the Supreme Court will allow Ms. Bond to challenge the validity of her prosecution." The government initially argued that Bond had no right to challenge the statute. "If the Supreme Court rules in Ms. Bond's favor, it could send the case back to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to determine whether the statute is valid. If the statute is ultimately invalidated, her conviction would be overturned and she would be released from prison having served a lengthy sentence," said Goldman.
"We seek confirmation from the Court that the federal government exceeded its boundaries and has no business prosecuting a purely local crime," Goldman said.
Oral arguments were heard Tuesday, and a written ruling will be released in June. The ruling of this case, Bond v. U.S. (09-1227), will undoubtedly spark debate regarding the scope of the 10th Amendment, which limits federal authority.
In the meantime, Bond is serving her sentence in a federal prison.