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United States v. Thurman

August 12, 1982

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLANT
v.
THURMAN, HARVIN R.



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Author: Aldisert

Before: ALDISERT and WEIS, Circuit Judges, and RE, Chief Judge.*fn*

Opinion OF THE COURT

ALDISERT, Circuit Judge.

The Fugitive Felon Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1073, makes it a federal crime to flee a state to avoid prosecution for a state felony and provides that violators of § 1073 may be prosecuted only in the federal district in which the original state crime was allegedly committed.*fn1 Under 18 U.S.C. § 2, one who aids or abets commission of an offense against the United States is punishable as a principal. The question for decision is whether, when the alleged violation is aiding and abetting flight to avoid prosecution, and the acts of aiding and abetting took place in another district, the defendant must be tried where the principal would be tried. The district court held that under the facts of this case venue was limited to the Eastern District of New York and therefore dismissed a count in an indictment brought in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The government has appealed as authorized by 18 U.S.C. § 3731. We affirm.

I.

Two New York City police officers were shot on April 16, 1981, in Queens County as they attempted to stop a van occupied by suspected burglars later identified as James Dixon York and Anthony LaBorde. One officer died, the other suffered serious wounds. After York and LaBorde fled New York, appellee Harvin Thurman allegedly obtained several residences for them in Philadelphia, helped them move their personal effects from one residence to another, provided them with "food, books and newspapers," and transported York from Philadelphia to Virginia. Thurman was charged in a federal indictment filed in the district court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania with six various counts: conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 371 (count one); being an accessory after the fact of unlawful flight, 18 U.S.C. § 3 (counts two and three); misprision of felony, 18 U.S.C. § 4 (counts four and five); and aiding and abetting an unlawful flight, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2(a), 1073 (count six). On Thurman's motion the district court dismissed count six. The government appeals.*fn2

Section 1073 specifies that "[v]iolations of this section may be prosecuted only in the Federal judicial district in which the original crime was alleged to have been committed. . . ." The government concedes that York and LaBorde could be tried on the federal charge only in New York, but it argues that Thurman may be tried in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where he is alleged to have aided and abetted York and LaBorde.

The problem before us is solely a question of statutory construction, and our authority is limited: if the statutory language and the legislative intent are plain, the judicial inquiry is at an end. In this case we must read the substantive statute, § 1073, together with the aider and abettor statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2(a):

Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.

The district judge viewed § 2(a) as controlling:

[T]hat in effect requires that the aider and abettor must also be tried in the district in which the principal must be tried, and the principals here clearly must be tried in New York, and it is my feeling that this count is not properly in this district.

App. at 22a. Because we believe both § 1073 and § 2(a) are unambiguous, we agree with the district court's analysis.

The legislative history of § 1073 supports our conclusion. The 1934 Senate debate preceding its passage reveals that the purpose of the legislation was to help states fight criminal gangs whose interstate contacts and resources made state prosecution difficult. Senator Robinson spoke of the necessity of having "a witness or other person needed in a criminal prosecution" brought back to the scene of the crime. 78 Cong. Rec. 5736 (1934). Emphasizing that if the ...


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