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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:David Clenney took his son Jacob from the United States to Belize to avoid giving custody to the child’s mother, Heather Carmichael, on a scheduled date. Clenney was arrested, extradited to the United States, and indicted in the Northern District of Texas for international parental kidnapping in violation of 18 U.S.C. �1204. Clenney resided in the Southern District of Texas, Carmichael in the Northern District of Texas. The government contended that venue was proper in the Northern District because Carmichael’s parental rights were affected there. Clenney filed a motion to dismiss the indictment for improper venue, arguing that none of the acts complained of in the indictment implicated jurisdiction in the Northern District. The district court denied the motion, accepting the government’s theory that venue was proper in the district in which Carmichael exercised her parental rights. Clenney entered a guilty plea, conditioned on his right to appeal the denial of his motion to dismiss. The district court accepted the conditional plea and sentenced Clenney. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. The statute of conviction does not have an express venue provision. The parties agree that because Clenney was charged with a single, continuing offense committed in multiple districts, venue is appropriate, under 18 U.S.C. �3237(a), in any district in which the offense was begun, continued or completed. The government argues that venue exists under the terms of the statute because “the intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights” is an element of the offense, and Carmichael’s parental rights were violated in the Northern District. The court disagrees, because this element merely speaks to the offender’s mens rea as he commits the conduct essential to the crime; it is not an “essential conduct element” as required by United States v. Rodriguez- Moreno, 526 U.S. 275 (1999). Even if the intent to obstruct parental rights were an essential conduct element of this crime, that intent was formed and existed solely in the mind of Clenney, who never set foot in the Northern District; the intent element is a mental state that cannot have been “committed” anywhere but where he was physically present. Finally, the government’s assertion that venue was proper in the Northern District because Jacob was a resident of that district and was retained outside that district is without merit. For the statute to be violated, there is no essential conduct element that requires a person to remove or retain a child outside the area of his primary residence. OPINION:Per curiam; Garwood, Smith and DeMoss, JJ.

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