Sex Offenses

The Federal Docket

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.

United States v. Samuel Elliott (10th Cir. September 2019)

The Court reversed the defendant’s convictions on three of four counts for possession of child pornography. The Court held that 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B), which prohibits knowingly possessing “any book, magazine…or any other material that contains an image of child pornography,” was ambiguous regarding the “unit of prosecution,” so the defendant could not be convicted for multiple counts based on having child pornography on multiple devices.

United States v. Anthony Spence (11th Cir. May 2019)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s sentence for child pornography after his offense level was enhanced based on his distribution of child pornography while he was in Jamaica. The Court held that a sentencing court may properly consider extraterritorial conduct if it is otherwise relevant conduct under the Guidelines.

United States v. Dean Doutt (6th Cir. June 2019)

On appeal, the Court held that the sentencing court applied the wrong legal standard under U.S.S.G. § 2G2.2(b)(5), which enhances a defendant’s sentence if the offense involves sexual activity with a minor between the ages of 12 and 16 “if the perpretrator was at least four years older than the minor. The district court erred by merely subtracting the victim’s age from the defendant’s without respect to how old each of them actually were at the time of the sexual contact.

United States v. Jacob Lickers (7th Cir. June 2019)

The Court affirmed the district court’s denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress based on a federal search warrant that was based on a defective state warrant. Though the Court agreed with the defendant that “any probable cause deficiency with the state search warrant would, as a matter of law and logic on these facts, heavily inform any conclusion we reach about the sufficiency of probable cause in the federal warrant application,” the Court upheld denial of the motion to suppress since the federal agents acted in good faith when they relied on the state warrant. The Court held that the focus should have been on the federal agents, who had no reason to question the integrity of the state proceedings, though the Court acknowledged that the result may have been different if the record reflected that the FBI had more knowledge about the state court proceedings

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