In United States v. Deason, No. 17-12218 (July 17, 2020) (Ed Carnes, Branch, Tjoflat), the Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions for enticement of a minor and attempted transfer of obscene material.
First, the Court upheld the denial of a motion to suppress statements made by the defendant in his home without receiving Miranda warnings. The Court concluded that the defendant was not “in custody” based on the totality of the circumstances.
Second, the Court found the evidence sufficient to convict on one of the obscene transfer counts. The Court rejected the defendant’s argument that the government did not put all of the underlying videos as a whole into evidence, and instead admitted only screenshots from each video and had an agent testify about the contents. The Court concluded that the evidence admitted was sufficient to establish that the material was obscene; the entire videos were not required.
Third, the Court concluded that the defendant invited any error with respect to the sufficiency of the indictment because the government superseded the indictment in response to the defendant’s specificity objection, and the defendant indicated that the problem had been cured.
Finally, the Court rejected three evidentiary claims under plain error. First, the defendant argued that various rules of evidence were violated when the government admitted screenshots and testimony rather than the videos themselves, but the Court concluded that the defendant could not show than any error affected his substantial rights because, had he objected, the government would have simply admitted the videos. Second, the Court concluded that, even if the obscene transfer charges were duplicitous for including multiple obscene images/videos in each count, any error did not affect his substantial rights because the jury would have unanimously agreed that at least one image in each count was obscene. Lastly, the Court concluded that, for the same reason, the defendant could not show any effect on his substantial rights in failing to give an instruction to cure the duplicity problem.