Thursday, March 05, 2009

Child Exploitation—Refining Definitions

In United States v. Shafer, No. 07–2574 (6th Cir. Mar. 3, 2009), Judges Moore, White, and Tarnow (E.D. Mich.) remanded a child-exploitation case for resentencing.

Conviction: Guilty plea to one count of enticing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing visual depiction of such conduct, and depiction was produced using material transported in interstate commerce—violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a).

Original Sentence: 360 months.

Guidelines: Section 2G2.1. BOL 32. Final OL 41. CHC I. Range of 324 to 405. Stat max of 30 years.

Facts: Bad. Charge involved defendant photographing eleven-year-old boy masturbating.

Issue: Defendant objected to enhancement under Section 2G2.1(b)(2)(A)—if offense involved commission of a sexual act or sexual contact, +2 levels. Defendant argued sexual act/contact do not encompass self-masturbation. Need another person involved.

District Court: Applied enhancement. Found that sexual act requires one individual to make contact with another. But sexual contact is broader and covers self-masturbation. Also found that the entire pattern of conduct involving the victim was all part and parcel of the offense. There was "grooming" conduct to make the victim engage in the sexual behavior.

Appellate Court: 1) Sexual contact includes self-masturbation. But 2) requirements for sexual contact include an intent element. The person who is doing the touching must have a specific intent—e.g., to abuse, humiliate, or arouse the sexual desire of someone. District judge did not make findings regarding the eleven-year-old boy’s intent. Because of the boy’s age, appellate court unwilling to infer necessary intent. Could have been that boy sought only to please the defendant in a non-sexual way. Remanded for findings on intent. 3) There was no evidence that the defendant committed a sexual act or sexual contact during the commission of the offense, in preparation for the offense, or in the course of attempting to avoid detection/responsibility for the offense. Earlier sexual abuse may have made offense of conviction easier to commit, but that fact does not support a finding that the defendant committed the previous abuse with the intent to later have the victim self-masturbate for the offense.

Short Holding: Section 2G2.1(b)(2)(A) does not apply given this record.

Dissent: Judge White would affirm because she thinks the district court found the requisite intent.

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