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February 3, 2009

Fourth Circuit limits reach of ACCA in light of Begay

The Fourth Circuit today holds in US v. Thornton, No. 08-4251 (4th Cir. Feb. 3, 2009) (available here), that statutory rape is not a violent felony under Armed Career Criminal Act. Here is the start of the opinion:

A jury convicted Michael Ray Thornton of possessing a firearm and body armor in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 931.  During his sentencing, the district court classified Thornton as an armed career criminal subject to a sentence enhancement based in part on a 1986 statutory rape conviction. At issue on appeal is whether Virginia’s statutory rape offense, which makes it a crime to "carnally know[ ], without the use of force, a child" between thirteen and fifteen years of age, is a "violent felony" under the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B). Because we find that Virginia’s carnal knowledge offense does not constitute a violent felony under the ACCA as interpreted by Begay v. United States, 128 S. Ct. 1581 (2008), we are constrained to reverse.

February 3, 2009 at 04:12 PM | Permalink


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