United States v. Washington, No. 16-2795 (3d Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Acting on apparent insider information from a drug courier, Washington and his co-conspirators planned to rob a Philadelphia property where they thought 10 kilograms of cocaine were stored. The “stash house” was a trap; the “courier” was an undercover ATF agent. The cocaine did not exist. Washington was convicted of Hobbs Act robbery and drug charges (18 U.S.C. 1951(a) and 21 U.S.C. 846) but acquitted on a gun charge. The fictitious amount of cocaine triggered a 20-year mandatory minimum. Washington was sentenced to 264 months in prison. Washington claimed that people of color are swept up in such stings in disproportionate numbers, that the use of the statutory mandatory minimum term violated his due process rights, and that his attorney rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance. The Third Circuit rejected those arguments but remanded for limited post-judgment discovery. While stash-house reverse stings can raise constitutional concerns, the use of a mandatory minimum sentence did not deprive Washington of due process. With respect to denial of pretrial discovery on ATF’s operations and enforcement statistics, the court agreed that a district court may exercise its discretion to grant limited discovery, or otherwise to conduct in camera analysis of government data before deciding whether limited discovery is warranted even if a defendant seeking discovery on a selective enforcement claim has not otherwise met his full burden under Supreme Court precedent concerning selective prosecution.