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Sex Offenses

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United States v. Peter Bobal (11th Cir. November 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction and sentence. The Court held that the prosecutor did not commit plain error during closing arguments when they incorrectly stated that the defendant had stipulated his guilt as to one of the counts in the indictment, as opposed to just one element of that count, reasoning that the full context allowed the jury to infer the stipulation only applied to an element of the count. The Court also held that, notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s decision in Packingham v. North Carolina, a defendant’s condition of supervised release prohibiting internet access except for work and pre-approved purposes is not unconstitutional even if the defendant’s term of supervised release is for life.

United States v. Fernando Clarke (2d Cir. October 2020)

The Second Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction for “transporting” child pornography after government agents downloaded illegal images from the defendant’s computer through a peer-to-peer filesharing program. The Court held there was sufficient evidence that the defendant knew he was making his images available for others to download based on his knowledge of how peer-to-peer programs work and that he had “transported” the images “by wittingly participating in a file-sharing network and downloading files from the computers of others” which “implicitly invited other participants in the file-sharing network to share his files, and enabled them to do so.”

United States v. Christopher J. Abbate (5th Cir. August 2020)

The Fifth Circuit affirmed several conditions of the defendant’s lifetime term of supervised release as a sex offender, including conditions prohibiting him from possessing any pornographic materials, but held that a condition prohibiting use or possession of video games and gaming consoles was overbroad unless limited to consoles that allow internet communication.

United States v. Herman Sanders (5th Cir. July 2020)

The Fifth Circuit reversed a defendant’s conviction for enticing or transporting a minor for purposes of producing child pornography under 18 U.S.C. § 2251 because there was insufficient evidence that the defendant had knowledge that his victims were minors.

United States v. John Hall (11th Cir. July 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the defendant’s 480-month sentence for receipt of child pornography, holding that the sentencing court properly considered hearsay statements found in case files from a prior sex offense case involving the defendant, including depositions of the victims, since the statements were supported by sufficient indicia of reliability. The Court also held the district court was not required to provide notice prior to varying upwards from the Guidelines since notice is only required prior to upward departures and the court was explicitly varying upwards and relying on the 3553 factors in doing so.

United States v. Steven Deason (11th Cir. July 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit upheld a conviction for attempted online enticement of a minor and attempted transfer of obscene matter to a minor, holding that officers did not err in failing to advise the defendant of his Miranda rights where he was informed that he was not under arrest and could ask the officers to leave and because he his statements were voluntary. The Court also held that testimony describing an allegedly obscene video and corresponding screenshots are a sufficient substitute to introducing the videos in their entirety.

United States v. Mark Ringland (8th Cir. July 2020)

The Eighth Circuit upheld a conviction for receipt of child pornography because Google was not acting as a government agent when it uncovered files of child pornography in the defendant’s email accounts.

United States v. Matthew Caniff (11th Cir. 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit sua sponte vacated its prior panel opinion where it had previously held that the defendant’s text messages requesting sexually explicit pictures from an undercover officer posing as a minor constituted “making a notice” seeking child pornography under 18 U.S.C. § 2251(d)(1). The Court’s new opinion held that “making a notice” is ambiguous and, applying the rule of lenity, sending private, person-to-person text messages asking a minor for sexually explicit pictures does not constitute “making a notice” to receive child pornography.

United States v. Dane Gillis (11th Cir. September 2019)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions for enticing a minor under § 2422(b) but reversed his conviction under § 373 for solicitation to commit a crime of violence, holding that kidnapping under § 1201(a) is not a “crime of violence” under the categorical approach applicable to § 373. The Court also held that the defendant’s right to a complete defense was not violated by the trial court’s proper rulings on the inadmissibility of the defense experts’ testimony.

United States v. Kyle Adam Kirby (11th Cir. September 2019)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s sentence. The district court did not err by holding that the Guidelines recommend consecutive maximum sentences for each count of conviction where the Guidelines range (life imprisonment) exceeds the statutory maximum for each count.

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