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United States v. Venable

666 F.3d 893 (2012)

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United States v. Venable

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

666 F.3d 893 (2012)

Facts

James Venable (defendant) was indicted by the United States Attorney’s Office (US Attorney) for the Eastern District of Virginia for being a felon in possession of firearms. Venable had originally been charged by the Richmond Commonwealth Attorney’s Office (Commonwealth Office), which was situated in the Eastern District of Virginia. The Commonwealth Office referred Venable’s case to the US Attorney for federal prosecution pursuant to a federal-state law-enforcement initiative called Project Exile. Project Exile was available only in the Eastern District. Venable filed a pretrial motion to dismiss his indictment on the ground that the US Attorney selected his case for federal prosecution because he was African American, in violation of the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause. In support of his claim, Venable alleged that the US Attorney declined to federally prosecute two White defendants, Turner and Zechman, who had stolen and sold the firearms in question. Turner and Zechman had been charged and prosecuted locally by authorities in Campbell County, Virginia. Campbell County, which was situated in the Western District of Virginia, had a stated interest in prosecuting firearm offenses within the county. In conjunction with his motion to dismiss, Venable moved for discovery to determine the criteria used by the US Attorney in making its prosecutorial decisions. The district court ruled that Venable failed to establish that he was entitled to discovery and denied the motion to dismiss. Venable appealed the denial of his motion for discovery.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Duncan, J.)

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