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United States v. Holcombe

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

February 23, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
THOMAS ABDUL HOLCOMBE, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: June 19, 2017

         Thomas Abdul Holcombe appeals from a judgment of conviction entered after a bench trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Briccetti, J.) for failing to register as a sex offender, in violation of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act ("SORNA"), 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a). On appeal, Holcombe argues principally that venue was improper in the Southern District of New York and that SORNA's registration requirements are void for vagueness and violate his right to travel. We AFFIRM.

          Robin Christine Smith, Law Office of Robin C. Smith, Esq., P.C., San Rafael, CA, for Defendant-Appellant.

          Won Shin, Assistant United States Attorney (Margaret Garnett, Assistant United States Attorney, on the brief), for Geoffrey S. Berman, Interim United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, New York, NY, for Appellee.

          Before: JACOBS, LEVAL, and LOHIER, Circuit Judges.

          LOHIER, Circuit Judge

         Thomas Abdul Holcombe, a sex offender subject to the requirements of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA or the Act), was convicted after a bench trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Briccetti, J.) of failing to update his registration when he moved from New York to Maryland. SORNA makes it a crime for a sex offender who is required to register under the Act and who "travels in interstate . . . commerce" to "knowingly fail[] to register or update a registration as required by [the Act]." 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a). The statute governing venue for crimes committed in more than one district, 18 U.S.C. § 3237(a), provides that "any offense against the United States begun in one district and completed in another, or committed in more than one district, may be . . . prosecuted in any district in which such offense was begun, continued, or completed." The principal question before us is whether a SORNA offense "beg[ins]" and venue is proper in the federal district from which a state sex offender subject to SORNA travels interstate to reside in another district.

         After determining that a defendant must travel interstate in order to violate Section 2250(a), and citing Section 3237(a), the District Court concluded that Holcombe's offense "beg[a]n" in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) and that venue was proper there because Holcombe traveled from the SDNY to Maryland. The District Court also rejected Holcombe's arguments that SORNA is void for vagueness and violates his constitutional right to travel, and summarily rejected a number of other arguments foreclosed by settled precedent. We AFFIRM.

         Background

         After pleading guilty in 1992 to attempted rape in the first degree under State law, Holcombe was required under SORNA to register as a sex offender and keep his registration current in any State where he resides. In 1996, while still in prison, Holcombe registered as a state sex offender in New York. He did so by completing a New York State Sex Offender Registration Form, on which he indicated that he would reside in Peekskill, New York (in the SDNY) after his release and promised to notify his "local law enforcement agency" and the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services "in writing of any change of home address within 10 days before" he moved. App'x 60.

         Holcombe was released from prison in 1998. Thereafter, he drifted in and out of prison for committing various crimes, including failure to comply with his sex offender registration obligations. In April 2013 Holcombe left the Westchester County Jail (in the SDNY) and updated his address to a residence in Peekskill, New York (in the SDNY), where, it turns out, he never resided. Instead, he moved to Maryland, where he lived for at least eighteen months without updating his New York registration or registering as a sex offender in Maryland.

         In May 2015 Holcombe was charged in the District Court for the SDNY with failing to register and update his registration as a sex offender as required by SORNA. After unsuccessfully moving to dismiss the indictment on various grounds, including that the SDNY was an improper venue, Holcombe proceeded with a bench trial on stipulated facts. The District Court convicted Holcombe of one count of knowingly failing to register and update his registration as required by SORNA and sentenced him on April 27, 2016. Holcombe completed his term of imprisonment on March 14, 2017.

         This ...


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