« Notable report on "decarceration laboratory" taking place in California | Main | Split Eighth Circuit opinion explains when plotting to kill an informant does not allow obstruction enhancement »

August 6, 2012

Seventh Circuit panel rejects unreasonableness claim from sex offender given 30-year sentence

A Seventh Circuit panel has an intriguing discussion of child sex offense sentencing in the course of affirming a 30-year prison term in US v. Reibel, No. 11-3416 (7th Cir. Aug. 6, 2012) (available here). Here is how the per curiam opinion gets started:

Cory Reibel sexually molested his girlfriend’s three-year-old daughter and took pornographic photos of her.  He pleaded guilty to two counts of producing child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a) and received concurrent prison sentences of 360 months, the bottom of the Guidelines range but also the statutory maximum. Reibel argues on appeal that his sentence is unreasonable in two ways: it punishes him as severely as the worst child pornographers, and the judge based it on mere speculation about sex offenders and their victims rather than on evidence.  But we have repeatedly rejected the idea that the maximum sentence for child-pornography offenses must be reserved for the worst offenders, and the district judge had sound reasons for choosing the sentence he imposed. We therefore affirm the district court’s judgment.

Among other notable portions of the Reibel ruling, I found these passages especially interesting:

Reibel next challenges the reasonableness of his sentence by arguing that the district judge based it on mere speculation about sex-offender recidivism rates and the severity of damage suffered by sex-abuse victims rather than on dependable evidence....  In support of this contention he provides quotations from his sentencing hearing and cites several sex-offender studies finding comparatively low recidivism rates for first-time offenders, for perpetrators who were not themselves victims of sexual abuse, and for men who molest female rather than male children.  He also cites a study finding that the psychological repercussions of sexual abuse are influenced by the victim’s age at the time of the abuse (younger children tend to recover faster) and its duration, which in this case was relatively short thanks to the victim’s conscientious mother.

We are unpersuaded that the judge based Reibel’s sentence on speculation and ignored evidence that should have been taken into account....  Besides, to tie sex offenders’ sentences to the statistics Reibel presents in his brief would be repugnant: offenders would be able to secure a shorter sentence by molesting girls rather than boys; offenders who were once victims would receive longer sentences than those who were not; and abusers of young children would receive shorter sentences than those whose victims were older.

August 6, 2012 at 01:11 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Seventh Circuit panel rejects unreasonableness claim from sex offender given 30-year sentence:


No one can predict with certainty who will commit another crime, and particularity another crime of a specific kind. But it is possible to estimate the risk of another crime within a probability range. Is that good enough for legal purposes? How much risk is acceptable?

This tells us that decision-makers should disaggregate the problem and then rely on statistical means when dealing with questions of this kind. There is a great deal of research showing that people (experts included) do not make good risk judgments when they rely on their intuition, as in this case.

What's more, risk changes. Risk judgments are good for only a short period of time. They have to be redone periodically. Who can say today how dangerous someone will be in ten years.

Posted by: Tom McGee | Aug 6, 2012 3:20:06 PM

Elderly sexual assault is victimization of persons over the age of 60, most of whom suffer from decreased functionality, frailty, and weakness and therefore are reliant on caretakers.

Posted by: njoy pure wand | Sep 13, 2012 5:11:56 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB