Recently, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the child pornography conviction of a man who challenged law enforcement’s search and seizure of evidence in the case.
In his appeal, the defendant in United States v. Robinson argued that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence. While the appellate court affirmed denial of that motion by the court (and therefore, the defendant’s conviction), the court did reverse and remand with regard to sentencing, holding the district court failed to appreciate the appropriate considerations of sentencing, per 18 U.S.C. 3553.
Birmingham sex defense attorneys know that a motion to suppress is one of the most powerful tools we have. The evidence against you may be strong, but if investigators failed to gather it correctly or if there is some other procedural failing, they shouldn’t be allowed to use it in court. Effectively requesting a motion to suppress requires a lawyer with extensive experience who can recognize any potential grounds for such action, and then deftly make that argument to the court.
No outcome can be guaranteed, but sometimes these efforts are your best shot.
In this case, court records indicate that investigators were able to track two sets of images containing child pornography to an IP address owned by a roofing company in Mississippi.
Armed with this information, investigators obtained a search warrant to scour the computers belonging to the company. In doing so, authorities determined that the child depicted in the images was the young son of the vice president.
Authorities then obtained a search warrant for the suspect’s home, where they reportedly found more than 260 still images and 19 video images of child pornography.
Following this discovery, the suspect offered a confession to investigators and was subsequently arrested.
However, prior to the trial, his defense lawyer moved to suppress evidence obtained at his workplace and home, as well as his confession to investigators. The attorney argued that the search warrant was flawed because it failed to establish a link between the place being searched and the evidence sought. Specifically, it was alleged, investigators did not disclose in the warrant that other IP addresses had accessed the account from which the files were sent. With regard to his statement, the defendant said he had invoked his right to counsel, and therefore his statement should be suppressed.
The district court rejected these arguments. The defendant entered a guilty plea to a single count each of production of child pornography, distribution of child pornography and possession of child pornography. He reserved the right to appeal on his suppression motions, but was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
The appellate court affirmed, holding that there was sufficient and reliable information to indicate that the IP address assigned to the roofing company was the one that was utilized for the transmissions of the information.
However, with regard to sentencing, the defendant argued that the court failed to appreciate his cooperation with the government in the case and further that the 60-year sentence was substantively unreasonable. The court had reasoned that it could not consider his cooperation with the government to lower the sentence because the prosecutors had not filed a motion for such action.
On this issue, the appellate court agreed with the defendant, finding it was not necessary for prosecutors to file a motion in order for the court to take action. The court called this error “significant,” and ordered the case be remanded back to the district court for a reconsideration on his sentencing.