Case Study - Federal Court Sentence for Possession of Child Pornography

Our client, a junior Navy officer entered a plea of Guilty in Federal District Court to one count of Possession of Child Pornography. The maximum punishment that our client was facing was imprisonment for 20 years, 5 years to life of supervised release and a $ 250,000 fine. Upon, upon our request, the Federal judge allowed our client to remain on Personal Recognizance Bond until his sentencing hearing which was scheduled for approximately three months later. The Pre-Sentence Report contained the Probation Officer’s assessment of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines which called for a sentence of imprisonment in the range of 78 to 97 months.

In our submission of the Defense Position with Respect to Sentencing Factors (referred to as Position Paper), we requested that the Court grant a significant downward variance from the applicable sentencing guidelines. Our position was that the Federal Sentencing Guidelines for child pornography offenses were outdated and did not take into account current factors that have been determined to be applicable in child pornography offenses. We argued that enhancement points for material involving prepubescent minors, sadistic or masochistic conduct, use of a computer, and number of images are applicable to conduct that is inherent to the underlying offense itself and should not be considered as aggravating factors warranting enhancement under the Guidelines. Our position was that if the Court were to consider the Guidelines, minus those aforementioned enhancements, the applicable Guideline range would be imprisonment in the range of 18 to 24 months of confinement, and that the appropriate sentence would still be well below that Guideline range. We also argued that our client readily accepted responsibility for his conduct when his home was searched by the FBI, as well as the fact that we had him in counseling since the search of his home. The Government argued for a sentence of imprisonment for 78 months which was the low end of the Guidelines.

In determining the appropriate sentence, the judge is obligated to impose a sentence which is "sufficient, but not greater than necessary" to serve the purposes of sentencing set forth under the applicable Federal criminal code. After consideration of our argument and sentencing package which highlighted our client’s exemplary military career, his otherwise outstanding background, his participation in counseling and his acceptance of responsibility, the judge imposed a sentence of confinement for 12 months and 1 day. This sentence was a significant downward departure from the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.