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Chemical weapon attack or domestic dispute? Supreme Court will decide


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to examine a case testing whether federal prosecutors overstepped their authority when they used a chemical weapons law to prosecute a Pennsylvania woman who tried to poison her husband’s mistress.

At issue in the case, Bond v. US, is whether a person charged under the chemical weapons statute has legal standing to challenge the applicability of that law to their case.

Carol Anne Bond and her lawyers argue that federal prosecutors should have turned the domestic dispute over to local law enforcement authorities who usually handle such matters. They complain that US prosecutors are federalizing sections of the law that are the domain of state and local jurisdictions.

Bond was a 40-year-old microbiologist who lived with her husband and adopted child in Lansdale, Pa. In 2006, Bond learned that her best friend was expecting a child. She was happy for her friend, in part because Bond was unable to bear children. Then she learned the truth: that the father of her friend’s child was her husband.

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Bond decided to take revenge. She obtained toxic chemicals and 24 times spread them on various surfaces on or near her friend’s home, hoping she would be poisoned. The chemicals were applied to door handles and a mailbox, among other surfaces.

The friend noticed the chemicals and avoided touching them. She once burned her thumb, but otherwise suffered no injury.

Concerned, the friend contacted the authorities. Postal inspectors set up surveillance cameras and discovered it was Bond who was applying the chemicals.

She was arrested, charged, and convicted of violating the federal law against using a chemical weapon.

Bond’s lawyer argues that Bond did not attempt to use a chemical weapon. She tried to assault her former friend by using toxic chemicals. Had she been prosecuted in state court she would have faced between three months and 25 months in prison.

Instead, under the federal chemical weapons statute, she was sentenced to six years in prison.

“Domestic disputes resulting from marital infidelities and culminating in a thumb burn are appropriately handled by local law enforcement authorities,” wrote Washington lawyer Paul Clement in his brief urging the high court to take up the case.

“Ms. Bond’s assault against her husband’s paramour did not involve stockpiling chemical weapons, engaging in chemical warfare, or undertaking any of the activities prohibited to state signatories under the Chemical Weapons Convention,” wrote Clement, who served as solicitor general under President George W. Bush.

He asked the court to take up the case to “restore a judicial check on the improper federalizing of state and local crimes.”