United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
December 10, 2015
from the United States District Court for the District of
Columbia (No. 1:09-cr-00026-1)
Kramer, Federal Public Defender, argued the cause and filed
the briefs for appellant. Jonathan S. Jeffress, Assistant
Federal Public Defender, entered an appearance.
R. Bates, Assistant U.S. Attorney, argued the cause for
appellee. On the brief were Vincent H. Cohen, Jr., Acting
U.S. Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman and Stratton C. Strand,
Assistant U.S. Attorneys.
Before: Henderson, Griffith, and Kavanaugh, Circuit Judges.
GRIFFITH CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Sergeant Juwan Johnson died in July 2005 after participating
in a violent hazing ritual near Ramstein Air Force Base in
Germany. A jury convicted appellant Rico Williams of
second-degree murder and witness tampering for his role in
the hazing and in covering up information about Johnson's
death. We affirm Williams's conviction for witness
tampering, but we reverse his murder conviction.
Williams was stationed at Ramstein Air Force Base as an
Airman in the United States Air Force starting around 2001.
He was discharged for medical reasons in May 2005 but
remained at Ramstein as a dependent of his wife, Octavia, who
was also an Airman. Williams was the leader, or
"governor, " of a group that went by various names:
"BOS, " "Brothers of the Struggle, " or
"Gangster Disciples." (For simplicity, this opinion
will refer to the group as the BOS.) The BOS was made up of
members of the U.S. Army and Air Force at Ramstein but was
not affiliated with the military. Expert evidence at trial
connected the BOS to the Gangster Disciples, an American gang
with roots in Chicago and individual "sets, " or
local groups, around the world. Although members of the BOS
often got into fistfights, the government's witnesses
testified at trial that they did not engage in any other
did, however, regularly initiate new members by beating them
up in a ritual known as a "jump-in." During a
typical jump-in, approximately six members of the BOS hit the
initiate for about six minutes. Blows were to be landed only
between the neck and the waist, and the initiate was
forbidden from defending himself in any way. During the
jump-in, the initiates were asked repeatedly if they wanted
to proceed. If they said no, the initiation ended. After a
jump-in, the new member would be hugged, kissed on the cheek,
shown the BOS handshake, and taken out to celebrate. The BOS
had performed around fifteen to eighteen jump-ins before
Johnson's; in none had a new member been hospitalized or
jump-in took place on the night of July 3, 2005, at a
brick-floored hut near the Ramstein base. Nicholas Sims, who
was second in command to Williams in the BOS, testified for
the government that nine people participated in Johnson's
jump-in-more than the usual six. Sims recalled that Williams
asked Johnson whether he wanted to begin. Johnson responded:
"Hell yeah." Williams asked him again, and he again
replied: "Hell yeah." Then Williams punched Johnson
in the face. Johnson fell immediately, but stood again. Asked
if he wanted to continue, he repeated: "Hell yeah."
Williams again punched him in the face. The group then began
hitting him below the neck and above the waist. After two or
three minutes, the group stopped while Williams and Sims, as
the top-ranking members of the BOS, continued to pummel
Johnson for the next minute. The other members then joined in
again on the beating.
government witness, Themetrious Saraglou, similarly testified
that Williams asked Johnson before the beating began if
"he was sure he wanted this, " and that Johnson
said: "Hell yes." Saraglou further testified that
throughout the jump-in, when Johnson fell, he was asked:
"Do you want this?" He "would reply and say,
'yeah, ' or 'hell yeah, ' or even 'f***
yeah.'" Saraglou testified that by about halfway
through the beating, Johnson wasn't as "hyper"
as he had been at the beginning; he began responding simply
"yeah, " instead of "hell yeah." At some
point, Johnson was held up as members continued to hit him
repeatedly. At another point, members kicked Johnson while he
was on the ground. No kicking had occurred at prior jump-ins.
When the six minutes were up, the timekeeper had to yell
"time" three times before the beating stopped. As a
result, the jump-in lasted longer than usual.
never lost consciousness during the jump-in and though his
mouth was bleeding, Johnson showed no other visible sign of
serious injury when it ended. According to Sims, Johnson was
exhausted and walking "like a drunk person, but by
himself." Saraglou testified that Johnson was walking
slowly and said he was too sore to go out to celebrate with
the others. Williams directed BOS members to take Johnson
home and charged Florentino Charris with watching him
overnight. Charris testified that around midnight, Johnson
was slurring his speech and having trouble walking. Sometime
later, Johnson asked to go to the hospital. Instead of taking
him to the hospital, Charris relayed Johnson's request to
another BOS member, who called Williams. Williams said not to
take him. Charris followed Williams's direction, but told
Johnson to let him know if he needed anything. Charris fell
asleep in the room with Johnson. When he woke up in the
morning, Johnson was dead.
autopsy revealed injuries to Johnson's brain and heart.
These "blunt force injuries" inflicted during the
initiation caused Johnson's death, according to the
government's medical expert at trial. By contrast, the
defense's medical expert opined that the underlying cause
of death was sickle-cell trait, a typically asymptomatic
genetic condition, and that "superficial blunt impact
injuries" were merely a "contributing" cause.
days following Johnson's death, Williams moved back to
the United States. He was arrested in Virginia in February
2009 and charged with four counts in relation to
Johnson's death, one of which the district court
dismissed partway through trial. Of the remaining three, the
first count was second-degree murder under the Military
Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000 (MEJA), which
provides federal jurisdiction over crimes committed by a
civilian accompanying the Armed Forces outside the United
States. See 18 U.S.C. § 3261 et seq.
other counts charged that Williams had tampered with
witnesses in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(3). One
alleged that Williams made a threat to Sims and three other
BOS members at a cookout the day after Johnson died.
According to Sims, Williams told them that if questioned by
the authorities, they were to say that Johnson died because
"Turkish people jumped" him. Williams also
threatened that they would be "basically done for"
if they told the truth about Johnson's death. Sims
testified that he took this threat to mean Williams would
kill anyone who told the truth. Trial Tr. 36-37 (Oct. 25,
2010). The other tampering count alleged that Williams called
Saraglou from the United States later that month and told him
to order Sims to cover up a tattoo that signaled gang
November 2010, a jury found Williams guilty of second-degree
murder and one count of witness tampering based on his threat
to Sims (but not to any others). The jury acquitted Williams
of the tampering count related to Sims's tattoo. In April
2012, Williams was sentenced to 22 years' imprisonment on
the murder conviction and a concurrent 10 years'
imprisonment for witness tampering. The court also ordered
restitution of $756, 000.
moved for judgment of acquittal on the murder and
witness-tampering counts. As for the murder count, he argued
that the evidence was insufficient to establish that the
requirements of MEJA were met or that he had the state of
mind required for a murder conviction. The district court
denied that motion. See United States v. Williams,
825 F.Supp.2d 117, 118-19 (D.D.C. 2011). Williams also moved
for a new trial on the grounds that the government misstated
the law during closing argument and that the district court
made several incorrect evidentiary rulings. The district
court denied these motions, too.
appeal, Williams contends that the evidence was insufficient
to convict him of murder. He also argues that a prosecutorial
misstatement of law during closing argument substantially
prejudiced his trial. He further challenges three evidentiary
rulings by the district court and various other alleged
prosecutorial errors. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1291 and 18 U.S.C. § 3742(a).
begin with Williams's challenges to the sufficiency of
the government's evidence at trial. He maintains that the prosecution failed
to prove that he was "residing with" a member of
the U.S. military and that he was not a "national of or
ordinarily resident in" Germany at the time the offense
occurred, as required to establish federal jurisdiction under
MEJA. 18 U.S.C. § 3267(2). Further, he argues that the
evidence was insufficient to find that he had the requisite
state of mind for second-degree murder.
review is highly deferential: we must accept the jury's
verdict if "any rational trier of fact" could have
found the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
United States v. Battle, 613 F.3d 258, 264 (D.C.
Cir. 2010). We view the evidence in the light most favorable
to the government, drawing no distinction between direct and
circumstantial evidence, and "giving full play to the
right of the jury to determine credibility, weigh the
evidence and draw justifiable inferences of fact."
Id. Examined through this deferential lens,
Williams's sufficiency-of-the-evidence arguments fail.
trial, the government was required to prove beyond a
reasonable doubt that Williams met the elements of MEJA,
which provides for federal jurisdiction over crimes committed
by civilians accompanying a member of the Armed Forces
abroad. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 3261, 3267(2). A
defendant meets the statutory criteria for
"accompanying" a military member if, at the time
the crime occurred, he was: (1) a dependent of a member of
the Armed Forces; (2) "residing with" that member
outside the United States; and (3) "not a national of or
ordinarily resident in the host nation." Id.
§ 3267(2). Williams contends that the government failed
to prove the second and third elements of MEJA.
the question is close, the evidence was sufficient for a
rational juror to find beyond a reasonable doubt that
Williams was "residing with" his wife Octavia, a
member of the Air Force, when the crime occurred on July 3,
2005. Three of the government's witnesses
testified that Williams lived with Octavia. One of those
witnesses, Charris, further testified that sometime after he
joined the BOS in April or May 2005, he attended a meeting at
Williams's house and saw Octavia there. However, no
witness said that Williams lived with Octavia at the time
of Johnson's death. Complicating matters, government
witness Sims testified on cross examination that Williams was
having marital problems in June 2005. Asked whether Williams
was "moving around and staying with" other people
during this interval, Sims responded that he was. Trial Tr.
29 (Oct. 26, 2010). He did not identify where exactly
Williams was staying but said that Williams was "all
over the place." Id. Williams left Germany and
moved back to the United States on July 6, 2005.
evidence meets the low bar required to defeat a
sufficiency-of-the-evidence challenge. As the district court
reasoned, a rational juror could have determined that Charris
joined the group as late as the end of May 2005 and,
therefore, that the meeting at Williams's house where
Octavia was present took place in June or early July 2005. A
juror could rationally infer from this evidence that Williams
resided with his wife on July 3, 2005. Moreover, the
government's witnesses offered unqualified testimony that
Williams lived with Octavia. A rational juror could infer
that one of the witnesses would have qualified his testimony
had Williams moved out before the jump-in. Cf. United
States v. Lamy, 521 F.3d 1257, 1268 (10th Cir. 2008)
(holding that a jury may rationally infer from testimony that
a house "is" within Indian country that the house
was "within reservation boundaries at all times within
the knowledge of the witnesses"). Taken together, this
evidence was sufficient to permit a rational juror to find
beyond a reasonable doubt that Williams resided with his wife
at the time of Johnson's death.
statement that Williams was staying with other people in June
2005 may appear to cloud the picture. However, the jury was
entitled to discredit that testimony. See United States
v. Jenkins, 928 F.2d 1175, 1178 (D.C. Cir. 1991)
("Credibility determinations may rest on a witness's
demeanor and, for that reason, are for the jury, not
us."). And even those jurors who believed Sims could
have inferred that Williams resided with Octavia at the time
of Johnson's death. Because MEJA does not define
"residing, " we give the term its ordinary meaning.
See Alabama v. North Carolina, 560 U.S. 330, 340
(2010). To "reside" is "[t]o dwell permanently
or for a considerable time" or "to have one's
settled or usual home in or at a particular place."
Oxford English Dictionary (2d ed. 1989) (emphasis omitted). A
person can have more than one residence. See United
States v. Venturella, 391 F.3d 120, 125 (2d Cir. 2004);
Eastman v. Univ. of Mich., 30 F.3d 670, 673 (6th
Cir. 1994). Thus, even jurors who credited Sims's
testimony that Williams was "staying" with other
people in June 2005 could have determined that Williams still
"resided" with his wife-either because he resided
with her but was temporarily staying elsewhere, or because he
resided in multiple places. Where the evidence can support
"varying interpretations, at least one of which is
consistent with" the jury's verdict, we must defer
to that verdict. United States v. Ayewoh, 627 F.3d
914, 919 (1st Cir. 2010) (emphasis omitted).
similarly reject Williams's argument that the evidence
was insufficient to prove that he was not a "national
of" or "ordinarily resident in" Germany at the
time of Johnson's death. 18 U.S.C. § 3267(2)(C). As
proof of nationality, the government introduced a
questionnaire that Williams completed as part of a 1996
application for a national-security position. Williams
checked the box indicating that he was a U.S. citizen or
national by birth. He wrote "NA" in the section of
the questionnaire that inquired about dual citizenship.
Williams contends that the government's evidence
establishes only that he was not a German national in 1996.
It says nothing about whether he was a "national
of" Germany on the date of Johnson's death in 2005.
evidence of Williams's nationality is indeed dated. But
as explained in a leading treatise on the law of evidence,
"[w]hen the existence of an object, condition, quality,
or tendency at a given time is in issue, " its
"prior existence" can indicate that it
"persist[ed] or continu[ed] at a later
period." United States v.
Stuart-Caballero, 686 F.2d 890, 893 (11th
Cir. 1982) (per curiam) (quoting 2 Wigmore, Evidence §
437(1) (Chadbourn rev. 1979)). The likelihood that a
depends on the chances of intervening circumstances having
occurred to bring the existence to an end. The possibility of
such circumstances will depend almost entirely on the nature
of the specific thing whose existence is in issue and the
particular circumstances affecting it in the case in hand.
That a soap bubble was in existence half an hour ago affords
no inference at all that it is in existence now; that Mt.
Everest was in existence ten years ago is strong evidence
that it exists yet[.]
Id. In our view, nationality falls closer to the
Mount Everest end of the spectrum. An individual's
nationality, while not immutable, does not ordinarily change
over the course of a nine-year period. Thus, knowing that Williams was not a
German national in 1996, a juror could rationally infer that
he was not one in 2005.
evidence was also sufficient to prove that Williams was not
"ordinarily resident in" Germany. Again giving this
undefined term its ordinary meaning, we note that
"ordinarily" means "usually." Oxford
English Dictionary (2d ed. 1989). MEJA thus envisions that a
person "accompanying the Armed Forces" in a host
country resides in that country as a military
dependent, but is not usually resident there. In
other words, he lives there because of his connection to the
military rather than because of other significant "local
ties." Daneshpayeh v. Dep't of Air Force,
17 F.3d 1444, at *2 (Fed. Cir. 1994) (unpublished) (approving
an agency finding that a civilian Air Force employee was
"ordinarily resident in" Turkey because he had
"profound local ties" there). This interpretation
also accords with Congress's intent in enacting MEJA,
which was to permit the United States to try crimes committed
by civilians connected to the military while simultaneously
"recogniz[ing] that the host nation has the predominant
interest in exercising criminal jurisdiction over its
citizens and other persons who make that country their
home." H.R. Rep. 106-778, pt. 1, at 21 (2000).
further observe that before the passage of MEJA, the term
"ordinarily resident" was used in Status of Forces
agreements-treaties governing the duties and privileges of
countries that station armed forces overseas. The military
has interpreted the term in various publications. While the
government does not ask us to defer to any of the
military's definitions, see United States v.
Apel, 134 S.Ct. 1144, 1151 (2014) ("[W]e have never
held that the Government's reading of a criminal statute
is entitled to any deference."), they confirm our
interpretation that an individual must have at least some
significant ties to the host nation, outside of his
connection to the military, to qualify as "ordinarily
government introduced evidence that Williams was stationed at
Ramstein because of his military service from 2001 until he
was discharged in May 2005. A rational jury could have
readily inferred from this evidence that Williams was not
"ordinarily resident in" Germany during this
period. Cf. Collins v. Weinberger, 707 F.2d 1518,
1519 & n.7 (D.C. Cir. 1983) (explaining that the Status
of Forces agreement for the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization distinguishes military personnel-and
accompanying civilian employees-stationed in a foreign nation
from locals who are "ordinarily resident" there). A
rational juror could also infer that Williams did not become
an ordinary, or usual, resident of Germany in the
interval between his discharge and Johnson's death. For
starters, this period was short, lasting no longer than two
months. Further, evidence showed that Williams's home was
on base rather than in a private dwelling, and that he was
married to an American servicemember rather than to a German
national or ordinary resident. Evidence also revealed that
Williams left Germany for the United States two days after
Johnson's death, on July 6, 2005, and never returned.
See Daneshpayeh, 17 F.3d 1444, at *2 (employee who
was "ordinarily resident" in Turkey lived there for
almost 20 years, was married to a Turkish woman, and lived in
an apartment building she owned). A jury could have
rationally inferred from this evidence that Williams did not
have significant local ties at the time of Johnson's
death but rather lived there because of his connection to the
leaving our discussion of MEJA, however, we observe that the
government could have taken straightforward steps to
"avoid the need for judicial consideration of what
should be a non-problem." United States v.
Hall, 613 F.3d 249, 253 (D.C. Cir. 2010). With respect
to Williams's residency with his wife, for example, the
government could have asked its witnesses where Williams
lived at the time of Johnson's death or introduced
evidence of where Williams kept belongings or received mail.
See United States v. Morris, 977 F.2d 617, 620 (D.C.
Cir. 1992) (concluding that evidence that a defendant kept
his possessions in an apartment could "support a
reasonable inference that [he] lived [there]"). As we
have in other close cases, we note that "[t]he
sufficiency of evidence is always situational, " and
that the government "should not find out the hard way
what change in circumstances would be sufficient to render
its inadequate performance on this issue fatal to a
conviction." Hall, 613 F.3d at 253.
next argues that the evidence was insufficient for a rational
juror to find beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted with
the mental state required for murder. We reject this
a defendant is convicted of second-degree murder, as opposed
to involuntary manslaughter, depends on the presence of
malice aforethought. Compare 18 U.S.C. §
1111(a) (murder), with id. § 1112(a)
(manslaughter). Malice can be proven by showing that a
defendant intended to kill or, as the government argued here,
that he consciously disregarded an extreme risk of death or
serious bodily injury. Williams contends that the government
did not prove that his actions met the heightened standard of
recklessness required for a murder conviction. He points to
testimony that Johnson repeatedly said he wanted the jump-in
to continue and did not appear seriously injured when it
ended. Williams also argues that the evidence showed he told
other BOS members to take Johnson to the hospital if
government presented ample evidence from which a rational
juror could infer that Williams consciously disregarded an
extreme risk of death or serious injury to Johnson. For
example, testimony at trial suggested that Williams had a
signature move called the "one-hitter quitter, "
which knocked people out with one punch, and that he once
refused to initiate the group's female member via jump-in
because it "would kill her." Testimony also
suggested that Johnson's jump-in was more dangerous than
prior hazings. Not only did it last longer and involve more
people than usual, but Saraglou testified that Johnson was
held up at one point while group members repeatedly punched
him without asking if he wanted to continue the jump-in. And
Sims stated that at another point, Johnson curled up in a
ball while he was kicked. According to Charris's
testimony, moreover, after the jump-in Williams told another
BOS member over the phone not to take Johnson to the
hospital. A rational juror could infer from this evidence
that Williams was aware of his own strength, understood that
jump-ins could lead to serious injury or death, and knew that
Johnson's jump-in presented a more extreme risk than most
initiations. From this evidence, the jury was entitled to
find that Williams behaved with conscious disregard of an
extreme risk to human life. See United States v.
Foster, 557 F.3d 650, 655 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (explaining
that in a sufficiency-of-the-evidence challenge, the court
must give "full play to the right of the jury to
determine credibility, weigh the evidence and draw
justifiable inferences of fact").
next argues that a prosecutorial misstatement of law during
closing argument substantially prejudiced the outcome of his
trial. We agree that the government misstated the law in its
closing argument. Because the misstatement implicated a
central issue-the state of mind with which Williams acted-and
was not sufficiently cured, it requires reversal of
Williams's murder conviction.
trial, the parties agreed on a jury instruction explaining
that Johnson's willing participation in the jump-in did
not excuse or justify Williams's conduct. The instruction
read, in relevant part: "The defense of consent is not
available for homicide or involuntary manslaughter, and
therefore should not be considered." Proposed Jury
Instructions 46, No. 1:09-cr-00026 (D.D.C. Oct. 19, 2010).
After trial began, however, Williams asked the district court
to add language to that instruction to clarify that the jury
could consider Johnson's consent to the jump-in "in
determining whether the defendant had the necessary malice
aforethought to establish the crime of second-degree
murder." Trial Tr. 57 (Nov. 5, 2010). He argued that the
particular circumstances of the case required a more detailed
instruction to clarify that the jury could consider
Johnson's willing participation in the initiation when
assessing whether Williams consciously disregarded an extreme
risk to human life. The district court denied this request
because, in the court's view, it was inaccurate to
suggest that Johnson's acquiescence could bear on
Williams's state of mind.
closing argument, defense counsel emphasized that Johnson was
excited about participation in the initiation and that every
time he was asked if he wanted to continue with the beating,
he said yes. Counsel went on to say:
[T]he Judge is going to tell you that consent is not a
defense, and we understand that, but it has to factor in . .
. to whether  Williams . . . intended to kill [or]
seriously injure  Johnson, and had a reckless disregard for
his life or serious injury. When [a] person . . . is saying,
yes, yes, yes, that's got to affect something-it may not
be a legal defense, but it's got to affect the state of
mind of the person who supposedly murdered him.
Tr. 32 (Nov. 8, 2010). In its rebuttal, the government
responded that defense counsel had inaccurately stated the
[Defense counsel] gave you some incorrect law because the
judge is the one-he's the final-he is the expert on the
law, the judge. And you can't take-Sergeant Johnson went
in there thinking that he was going to become a member of a
brotherhood. He did not go in there willingly to get killed
because consent is never ever a defense to murder. It is no
defense to second degree murder or involuntary manslaughter,
and you know what, the judge is going to tell you-[defense
counsel] told you to consider it; don't even consider it
because you can't consider it. It is not a defense . . .
. You can't even consider it in his intent or
anything else. You just cannot.
Id. at 100-01 (emphasis added). After the rebuttal
concluded, defense counsel objected and asked the district
court to give a "curative" instruction. The
proposed language would have read:
During yesterday's rebuttal argument, you heard [the
government] tell you that you could not consider Juwan
Johnson's consent to the initiation ceremony when
determining whether the government has proven beyond a
reasonable doubt Mr. Williams's intent to commit the
offenses of second degree murder or involuntary manslaughter.
As I will instruct you momentarily, consent is not a defense
to these charges. However, under the law, you may consider
Juwan Johnson's consent to the initiation, among all the
other evidence I have admitted, in determining whether the
government has proven Mr. Williams' intent to commit the
crimes of second degree murder or involuntary manslaughter
beyond a reasonable doubt.
Rico Williams' Objection to Gov't's Improper
Closing Arg. & Mot. for Curative Instruction 4-5, No.
1:09-cr-00026 (D.D.C. Nov. 9, 2010).
district court refused to read this proposed
"curative" language to the jury, concluding again
that it was inaccurate to suggest that the victim's
acquiescence had any impact on the defendant's state of
mind. However, the district court modified the first sentence
of the consent instruction to read simply: "Consent is
not a defense to second degree murder or involuntary
manslaughter"-excising the language "and therefore
should not be considered." Trial Tr. 16-17, 46 (Nov. 9,
2010). The district court also offered to give the jury an
additional instruction on proof of state of mind. It pointed
to a standard criminal jury instruction that explains that
someone's state of mind "ordinarily cannot be proved
directly, " but may be inferred from the defendant's
conduct and other "surrounding circumstances" that
the jury finds relevant. Instruction No. 3.101 of the
Criminal Jury Instructions for the District of Columbia
(2014). The district court acknowledged, however, that this
additional instruction would not satisfy the defense's
request for a curative instruction. The defense declined it,
and the district court did not read it to the jury.
argues that the government's misstatement of law
substantially prejudiced him. He agrees that consent is not
an affirmative defense to homicide, but insists that
Johnson's consenting behavior-that is, his
"continued, and enthusiastic, statements that he wanted
the initiation to continue"- suggested that Williams was
not conscious of an extreme risk that Johnson might die or be
seriously injured. Appellant's Br. 63-65. According to
Williams, the government's rebuttal argument that consent
cannot be considered "in [Williams's] intent or
anything else"-coupled with the district court's
instruction that "consent is not a
defense"-prevented the jury from considering crucial
context when determining whether Williams acted with malice
asserts that the government's closing argument improperly
led the jury to believe that it could not consider crucial
evidence of Williams's state of mind, and that the jury
instructions "supported" this misperception.
Appellant's Br. 65. In other words, he alleges that
improper prosecutorial argument prejudiced his trial. When
reviewing such challenges, we first examine whether the
government's statement was indeed error, keeping in mind
that it need not have been deliberate or made in bad faith to
be erroneous. See United States v. Watson, 171 F.3d
695, 700 (D.C. Cir. 1999). If the remark was error, we
evaluate whether the error substantially prejudiced the
defendant and therefore requires reversal. United States
v. Straker, 800 F.3d 570, 628 (D.C. Cir. ...