Federal courts do not hear every case; they are courts of limited jurisdiction. Most criminal conduct is prosecuted in state court, both because federal prosecutors are (supposed to be) selective about when they make a federal case out of it, and because there is not federal jurisdiction over every case.
That said, there are many ways to meet the thresholds for federal jurisdiction. The accused D.C. Madam, for example, was charged in federal court with using the mail in furtherance of her alleged prostitution ring. Had she avoided using the mail, she also might have avoided a federal trial. (Perhaps Federal Express missed a marketing possibility.)
The Fourth Circuit decided a case on June 10, that shows another way to allow a federal court to assert jurisdiction over you.
In United States v. Wadford, the Fourth Circuit reviewed the conviction of Mr. Kelly Wadford. The opinion is available here. Mr. Wardford is, to put it mildly, not the kind of guy you would want your daughter to bring home.
According to the opinion, Mr. Wadford is an afficiandao of Rohypnol, the date rape drug. Repugnant as it is, though, it was not Rohypnol use alone that landed him in federal court. Rather, Mr. Wadford chose to use his Rohypnol on a business trip with a female colleague who he drugged and assaulted. While on the trip, the travellers crossed several state lines. This provided the basis for a charge under the Mann Act.
Even that may not have been what got him a federal indictment though. How did Mr. Wadford ensure he’d wind up in federal court?
If you have questions about how federal criminal charges are different than state criminal charges, please visit this page on Maryland federal criminal charges.
Mr. Wadford, according to the opinion, was later fired for sexual harassment for things having to do with another coworker. After he was fired, he hacked his way into his former co-worker’s email accounts and forged emails to his company’s parent company in Italy, threatening, in his co-worker’s name, bad things if he were not rehired.
Mr. Wadford not only crossed state lines in the course of his series of sexual assaults, he then used the wires to threaten people under false pretenses to try to get his job back.
One hears often that it’s not the crime, it’s the cover up. Here, both the crime and the cover up would have landed Mr. Wadford in a bad place. But it’s probably the cover up that pushed him over the edge and into federal court.