Robert S. Kanli, also known as Robert S. Martin, 33, born in La Mirada, California, was arrested on charges alleging that he emailed threats to kill an official in the United States Embassy in Pristina, Kosovo. Kanli made his initial appearance on January 15, 2014 before Magistrate Judge Ivan D. Davis in the Eastern District of Virginia.  Kanli has been charged with 18 U.S.C. § 875(c), which carries with it a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

According to court documents, Kanli has been living abroad for quite some time. Allegedly, Kanli became extremely upset after not being able to obtain a passport from the Consular’s office in Kosovo. Apparently, the Consular Officer would not issue Kanli’s request for a passport due to information that Kanli had lost five passports over recent years, and moreover, in 2011 Kanli supposedly submitted a fraudulent Affirmation of Renunciation of Nationality of United States to the Israeli Ministry of the Interior in an attempt to gain Israeli citizenship. Upon notice to Kanli that a passport would not be issued immediately, court documents allege that he began sending aggressive, threatening emails to the Officer.

Kanli’s checkered past also presented a cause for concern to U.S. authorities, mainly his prior criminal history involving the possession of credit cards, university transcripts, membership cards and other various items with the names of different people on them. Further, the government has identified several names that Kanli has allegedly used in the past other than his birth or legal name.

The court documents read almost like a fiction novel. The evidence in the case depicts a person suffering from some kind of mental illness rather than a person that intended to kill a U.S. Consular Officer. For example, in addition to the random possession of documents with the names of others, the government also cites to a personal advertisement allegedly posted by Kanli seeking an Israeli “non-sexual” wife for “conversations, companionship and good company,” and offers American citizenship as a perk. He includes his personal email and contact information in the ad. Additionally, in one email to the Consulate, Kanli allegedly not only threatened the Consular Officer, but also included a jpeg image of his National ID card. The ID card contained a photograph of Kanli as well as his date and place of birth.

It seems strange that someone who is serious about causing harm to an Embassy official would include their photo and personal identifying information. When considering the evidence as a whole, this case presents a person that may not be thinking clearly in all aspects of his life, not just in the instance involving the Consulate’s Office.

There are two avenues to pursue in order to put forth a theory of mental incapacity as a defense, both of which are addressed under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12.2. The first is an insanity defense, which carries with it a subset of hurdles from a defense perspective. On the other hand, a defendant can also assert any other mental incapacity as to the issue of guilt or the issue of punishment. Notice of these defenses must be made prior to the time for filing pretrial motions. Further, the defendant must be subjected to a mental evaluation, usually by both defense and government experts. Certainly the government is likely to challenge any theory of defense on such grounds, but if successful, a defendant may receive a reduced or alternative sentence due a proven mental illness.

The author of this blog is Margaret S. Ververis, an attorney specializing in Federal Criminal Defense matters with the law firm of Ferrari & Associates, PC. If you have any questions please contact her at 202-440-2581 or ververis@ferrariassociatespc.com.

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