Archive | child pornography

Friday, August 28th, 2020

Government operation of child pornography website to catch visitors is not outrageous government misconduct and the good faith exception applied to evidence found through a warrant based on the site.

United States v. Caraher, No. 18-511 (2d Cir. August 25, 2020)(Hall, joined by Lynch and Menashi), involved the government’s takeover and operation of the child pornography website “Playpen” for two weeks so that it could track visitors to the site, identify their identities and locations, and search their computers. The FBI obtained a warrant allowing them to search “activating computers” of “any user or administrator who logs into the Playpen website by entering a username and password.” Caraher was such a visitor and agents located him and searched his computer. The district court held that the warrant violated Fed. Rule Crim P. 41(b) and 28 U.S.C. 636(a) but applied the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule.

The Court followed its prior decision in United States v. Eldred, 933 F.3d 110, 111 (2d Cir. 2019), addressing the same warrant and holding that, even if the search and the …


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Categories: child pornography, good faith

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Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

Second Circuit: 31-Day Delay In Seeking Warrant To Search Seized Tablet Computer Violates Fourth Amendment, But Suppression Not Warranted Because Delay Resulted From Mere “Isolated Negligence.”

In United States v. Smith, the Circuit (Meyer, D. Conn., joined by Katzmann and Kearse), the Circuit held that police violated the Fourth Amendment by waiting 31 days before seeking a warrant to search a seized tablet computer, but declined to apply the exclusionary rule because the error was due to “isolated negligence,” and because existing precedent would not have told an objectively reasonable police officer that the delay was unreasonable.

Police encountered Smith, drunk to the point of unconsciousness, in his car on the side of the road in a rural area of upstate New York. After removing Smith from the car, and while searching the car for identification, an officer observed a tablet computer on the front passenger seat displaying what appeared to be child pornography. The officer arrested Smith for DUI and seized the tablet. Smith was released and refused consent to search the tablet. However, …


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Categories: child pornography, Exclusionary Rule, Fourth Amendment

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Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

Second Circuit Holds that Only One JVTA Assessment is Permitted even where there are Multiple Counts of Conviction

The defendant in US v. Haverkamp, 18-3735, pleaded guilty to one count of distribution and receipt of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to 121 months in prison. In addition, the district court imposed the $100 mandatory special assessment under 18 USC § 3013 on each count. The court also imposed the $5000 assessment under 18 USC § 3014 on each count. The latter assessment, applicable only to certain offenses, was added to the law in 2015 by the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, and is commonly known as the JVTA assessment.

On appeal, in an opinion by Judge Parker, joined by Judges Sack and Chin, the Second Circuit held that only one JVTA assessment is permitted for any defendant even if there are multiple eligible counts of conviction. The Court relied principally on the language of § 3014, which instructs …

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Categories: child pornography

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Friday, January 17th, 2020

Circuit Holds That New York Offense of Possession of a Sexual Performance By a Child (N.Y. Penal Law §263.16) Categorically Matches 18 U.S.C §2252(a)(4)(B) and Is an Aggravated Felony Under the INA.

In Quito v. Barr, __ F.3d __ 2020 WL 218590 (2d Cir. Jan. 15, 2020) (Wesley, Livingston, Bianco),  the Second Circuit held that attempted possession of a sexual performance by a child under N.Y. Penal Law §263.16 is an aggravated felony under the INA because it categorically fits the definition of the federal offense of possessing child pornography under 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B), an enumerated aggravated felony. The Court rejected petitioner’s arguments that the New York statute sweeps more broadly because it does not require knowledge of the minor’s specific age and does not include the affirmative defense to §2252(a)(4)(B) for someone who possessed fewer than three images and promptly destroyed them or turned them over.

The Court ruled, as a threshold matter, that it was not bound by its previous holding in Weiland v. Lynch, 835 F.3d 207 (2d Cir. 2016),  that  a “nearly identical” New York …


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Categories: aggravated felony, categorical approach, child pornography

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Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

Jenkins II: Circuit Vacates and Remands Child Pornography Sentence, Again

You may remember that, back in April 2017, the Second Circuit vacated a 225-month sentence for a person convicted of the possession and transportation of child pornography as “shockingly high.” In Jenkins I, the Circuit wrote an extensive opinion, chock-full of quotable portions for sentencing memos and appeals, about why the child pornography guidelines can produce “unreasonable results.”

On remand, however, the district court resentenced Mr. Jenkins to 200 months of imprisonment – still an exceedingly long sentence for a first conviction.

On Friday, the Circuit reversed again, this time sending the case to a new district judge. Although Jenkins II is a summary order, it still has potentially useful language about why it is error for a district court to rely on studies or statistics about people convicted of child pornography offenses as a reason to believe that a particular person committed a prior “undetected” offense. As the …


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Categories: 3553(c), child pornography

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Friday, November 2nd, 2018

Second Circuit Upholds “Barbaric,” but Somehow Substantively Reasonable, Sentence

In a remarkably fatalistic opinion, the Second Circuit rejected a substantive reasonableness challenge to a 25 year sentence for child pornography sentence charges. The sentence, the panel explained, was “barbaric without being all that unusual.” United States v. Sawyer, No. 15-2276 (2d Cir. Oct. 6, 2018) (Jacobs, Pooler, Crawford (D. Vt.)), available here.

The defendant in Sawyer was initially sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment on charges of sexual exploitation and receiving child pornography. The defendant’s PSR documented that the defendant suffered a childhood of severe physical and sexual abuse. The district judge described this childhood as “horrific” and “nightmarish,” but admonished the defendant that “I can’t excuse that darkness in your heart and soul that made you prey upon two innocent children.” Slip op. at 3-4. (The defendant was prosecuted for having, but not distributing, graphic cellphone photos of two young girls with whom he had …


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Categories: child pornography, law-of-the-case doctrine, substantive reasonableness

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Friday, June 22nd, 2018

Circuit Upholds Warrantless Search of Car, Remands for Resentencings to Consider Downward Departures and Concurrent Sentences

In United States v. Jones, the Circuit affirmed the district court’s refusal to suppress evidence seized during a warrantless search of a car parked in the common parking lot of a multi-family building.  The Circuit held Jones had no legitimate expectation of privacy in his car because it was parked in a driveway shared by tenants of two multi-family homes, not within the curtilage of his private home, and he did not have exclusive control over the driveway.  Op. at 13-15.

In United States v. Sawyer, the Circuit remanded the case for the second time, this time for resentencing in front of a new district judge.  The Circuit previously had vacated as substantively unreasonable a 360-month sentence for the offenses of producing and receiving child pornography.  In that opinion, the Circuit held that the “30-year sentence would have been appropriate for ‘extreme and heinous criminal behavior’ and the …


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Categories: automobile exception, child pornography, concurrent, curtilage

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Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Anthony Weiner’s Sentencing Memo

The Second Circuit’s most recent criminal opinions involve rather boutique issues. The Circuit has addressed, for example, whether a bail bond forfeiture must be vacated if a defendant dies while his appeal his pending (no), and whether the Circuit has jurisdiction to review a conviction when the defendant writes in the administrative section of the appeal form that he only seeking review of his sentence (yes).

Meanwhile, in the Southern District, Anthony Weiner’s attorneys have filed an interesting and detailed sentencing memorandum. The memo is instructive to attorneys representing defendants in child pornography cases. Of particular interest is the memo’s exhaustively researched argument section. Part I argues that the Guidelines provide an unreliable benchmark for determining the appropriate sentence in child pornography cases. Part II.A identifies aggravating factors that are often present in child pornography cases but which are absent from this case. The case discussion in …


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Categories: child pornography, forfeiture, sentencing, sentencing findings, sex offenses

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Friday, July 21st, 2017

Second Circuit Tosses Indictments Following Fifth Amendment Violation, Denies Rehearing in Jenkins

Earlier this week, in United States v. Allen, the Second Circuit reversed the defendants’ convictions and dismissed the indictments against them.  You can access the Circuit’s 81-page opinion here.  The Circuit considered whether a witness’s involuntary testimony that was compelled by a foreign government can be used against in a U.S. prosecution.  In its introduction, the Circuit outlined its four-step conclusion:

First, the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition on the use of compelled testimony in American criminal proceedings applies even when a foreign sovereign has compelled the testimony.

Second, when the government makes use of a witness who had substantial exposure to a defendant’s compelled testimony, it is required under Kastigar v. United States, 406 U.S. 441 (1972), to prove, at a minimum, that the witness’s review of the compelled testimony did not shape, alter, or affect the evidence used by the government.

Third, a bare, generalized denial of …


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Categories: child pornography, Fifth Amendment

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Monday, April 17th, 2017

Second Circuit Vacates 225-month Sentence in Child Pornography Case as Substantively Unreasonable

Today, in United States v. Jenkins, the Second Circuit concluded that a 225-month sentence for the possession and transportation of child pornography was substantively unreasonable and vacated and remanded for resentencing, concluding that the district court’s sentence “went far overboard” and was “shockingly high”  Opinion at 11, 12.

Jenkins was convicted after trial of one count of possession of child pornography (18 U.S.C. 2252A(a)(5)(B)) and one count of transportation of child pornography (18 U.S.C. 2252A(a)(1)).  He was sentenced to concurrent time of 120 months on the possession count (the statutory maximum) and 225 months on the transportation count (just below the statutory maximum of 240 months), and to 25 years of supervised release.  The child pornography he possessed (and brought with him on a family vacation to Canada) was for personal use.  He did not produce or distribute child pornography and did not attempt to contact a minor.  This …


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Categories: child pornography, guideline

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Thursday, December 8th, 2016

60-year Sentence in Child Pornography Case Is Found Substantively Reasonable

On Tuesday, the Second Circuit issued a decision in United States v. Brown. The opinion presents an interesting debate about how the federal system punishes defendants accused of child pornography charges. I encourage defense attorneys to check out both the concurrence and dissent, for some powerful arguments about the risks of unreasonable sentences in child pornography cases.

The opinion examines defendant Nathan Brown’s 60-year sentence for procedural and substantive reasonableness. The defendant pleaded guilty to 3 counts of production of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a) and 2 counts of possession of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B).

The majority (J. Droney) begins with a recitation of some of the more egregious facts, which you can find on pp. 3-11. The basics: The defendant took sexually-explicit photos of girls, ranging in ages from 8 -12, who were in his care and then uploaded …


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Categories: child pornography, sentencing

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