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Long case against lawyer ends with verdict of not guilty

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The yearslong, convoluted criminal case against Albuquerque attorney David Chipman “Chip” Venie ended Monday when a jury found him not guilty in the shooting injury of Stephen Biddinger.

David Chipman "Chip" Venie

VENIE: First trial ended in mistrial

Prosecutors had to file the case against him three times and ultimately prosecute it in three jurisdictions after Venie, representing himself, maneuvered a dismissal of the original grand jury indictment, and then, after prosecutors refiled, secured a mistrial in the summer 2015.

His second – and final – trial was heard last week in 2nd Judicial District Court with visiting 13th Judicial District Judge Allen Smith of Los Lunas.

At about 2:30 p.m. the jury sent notice to attorneys that they were deadlocked on the aggravated battery and aggravated assault charges. They returned a verdict at 4:30 p.m. after about seven hours of deliberation.

Prosecutors tried to prove him guilty of shooting Biddinger in August 2012 and then tampering with evidence. But Venie said he shot Biddinger in self-defense after he came into his Downtown Albuquerque law office and threatened him, his wife and colleagues.

During the trial last week, Biddinger, who was homeless at the time, said he had used methamphetamine the night before the incident but that he wasn’t aggressive when he went into Venie’s office after, he said, Venie had ridiculed him in the parking lot minutes before.

Biddinger was shot in a femoral artery but survived. He is now in prison on charges unrelated to the incident, a point Venie’s defense highlighted during trial.

After the verdict, Venie said Biddinger’s personal injury attorney is still pursuing damages from the incident, so he couldn’t comment further.

But a dramatic gasp followed by tears and an intense hug between Venie and his attorney, Jon Pettis, and another between Venie and his wife showed his great relief.

“It’s over. It’s over,” he told family members on the phone after the proceedings.

Venie has been sanctioned several times for his actions as an attorney.

The California Supreme Court in July 2010 suspended him from practicing law for 90 days for his persistence in sending attorney solicitations to jail inmates. He was suspended by the New Mexico Supreme Court. He has been referred to the State Bar Lawyers Assistance Committee for professional counseling opportunities.

Journal staff writer Scott Sandlin contributed to this report.