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June 30, 2009

Seventh Circuit rejects broad-side attack on child porn guidelines

The Seventh Circuit today handed down an intriguing little per curian opinion dealing with the federal child porn guidelines in US v. Huffstatler, No. 08-2622 (7th Cir. June 30 2009) (available here). Here are the choice quotes:

[W]e need not ultimately decide whether Kimbrough gives district courts the discretion to disagree with the child-pornography guidelines on policy grounds, because Huffstatler does not contend that the district court abused its discretion. See United States v. Taylor, 520 F.3d 746, 747-48 (7th Cir. 2008).  He argues instead that the methodological flaws that supposedly run through the child-pornography guidelines invalidate them entirely.  Thus, he submits, not only may a district court sentence below the child-exploitation guidelines based on policy disagreements with them, it must.

Huffstatler’s stance is untenable.  His argument is based on analogy to the crack guidelines, yet those guidelines remain valid, even after KimbroughSee United States v. Roberson, 517 F.3d 990, 995 (8th Cir. 2008).  Judges are not required to disagree with them; a within-guidelines sentence for a crack offense may be reasonable. Id.; see also United States v. Lopez, 545 F.3d 515, 516-17 (7th Cir. 2008) (affirming a within-guidelines sentence for possession with intent to distribute crack).  The child-exploitation guidelines are no different: while district courts perhaps have the freedom to sentence below the child-pornography guidelines based on disagreement with the guidelines, as with the crack guidelines, they are certainly not required to do so.  Because the district court was not obligated to sentence Huffstatler below the range recommended by valid sentencing guidelines, Huffstatler cannot establish error, let alone plain error.

June 30, 2009 at 09:17 PM | Permalink

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