Skip to main content

General Criminal Venue Provision Applies When Part of Offense Committed in US & Illicit Sexual Conduct Outside the US Statute Constitutional

In United States v. Pendleton, No. 10-1818, September 7, 2011, the Court of Appeals considered: (1) whether the general criminal venue provision of 18 U.S.C. § 3238 applies when a defendant commits part of his offense inside the United States; and (2) whether 18 U.S.C. § 2423(c) and (f)(1) of the PROTECT Act, which criminalize noncommercial illicit sexual conduct outside the United States, are a valid exercise of Congress’s power under the Foreign Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3).

In 2005, Thomas Pendleton boarded a plane in New York City bound for Hamburg, Germany. Six months after his arrival there, he sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy. German authorities arrested him, and a jury in Hamburg found him guilty of "engaging in sexual acts with a person incapable of resistance." After serving nineteen months in a German prison, Pendleton returned to the United States, where he was arrested and indicted in the District of Delaware on one count of engaging in noncommercial illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(c) and (f)(1).

Although Pendleton’s offense began when he initiated foreign travel by boarding a plane bound for Germany in the Eastern District of New York, he "committed" the offense when he engaged in a illicit sex act in Germany. Because the criminal conduct was "essentially" foreign, the district court did not err in applying the general criminal venue provision, and venue was proper in Delaware.

As for the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(c), because the jurisdictional element in this section has an "express connection" to the channels of foreign commerce (the first prong of the Lopez three part framework to determine whether a statue has a constitutionally tenable nexus with foreign commerce), it is a valid exercise of Congress’s power under the Foreign Commerce Clause.


Popular posts from this blog

Double Jeopardy Claim Falls Short on Deferential Habeas Review

In the habeas matter of Wilkerson v. Superintendent Fayette SCI, Nos. 15-1598 & 15-2673, the Third Circuit defers to a state court determination that the defendant’s conviction of both an attempted murder count and an aggravated assault count based on the same altercation did not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause.
The evidence was that during the altercation, the defendant both struck the victim in the head with a gun and shot him in the chest. The Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld consecutive sentences on the theory that the evidence was sufficient to permit a jury to find the striking to support one count and the shooting the other. Despite the jury instructions’ and verdict form’s failure to require each of these discrete findings, the Third Circuit holds that the state court’s reasoning was sound enough to withstand deferential review the AEDPA’s “clearly established Federal law” limitation. “[W]here the jury instructions were merely ambiguous and did not foreclose the jury…

Mailing Threatening Communications is a Crime of Violence and a Judicial Proposal for Reform of the Categorical Approach

In United States v. Chapman, __F.3d__, No. 16-1810, 2017 WL 3319287 (3d Cir. Aug. 4, 2017), the Third Circuit held that mailing a letter containing any threat to injure the recipient or another person in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 876(c) qualifies as a crime of violence for the purposes of the career offender enhancements of the Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 4B1.1(a).The Court acknowledged in a footnote that the analysis is the same for a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 871, threats against the president.

The Court began its analysis by reviewing the definition of “crime of violence” and specifically the meaning of the words “use” and “physical force.”Quoting United States v. Castleman, 134 S. Ct. 1405 (2014), and Tran v. Gonzales, 414 F.3d 464 (3d Cir. 2005), it defined “use” as “the intentional employment of force, generally to obtain some end,” which conveys the notion that the thing used “has become the user’s instrument.” The Court confirmed the definition of “physical force” as “force ca…

A Traffic Stop Followed by a Summons is not an Intervening Arrest for Sentencing Guidelines Purposes

In United States v. Ley, __ F.3d __, 2017 WL 5618617 (3d Cir., Nov. 22, 2017), the Third Circuit held that a traffic stop, followed by the issuance of a summons, is not an intervening arrest for the purpose of calculating a defendant’s prior convictions under USSG § 4A1.2(a)(2).   Defendant John Francis Ley received two speeding tickets on two consecutive days.  After writing each ticket, the police released Ley and informed him that the matter would proceed via summons.  No arrest was made and Ley was sentenced for both matters on the same day. The District Court, however, held that the issuance of the summons constituted an intervening arrest for the purposes of the Guidelines and each ticket therefore merited an individual criminal history point.  Ley appealed.  Looking at the ordinary meaning of both “arrest” and “summons,” as well as the Supreme Court’s history of distinguishing arrests from other interactions with law enforcement, the Third Circuit, joining three other circuits …