Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Hall: Upholding 40-Year Child Pornography Sentence

In United States v. Hall, No. 18-14145 (July 21, 2020) (Ed Carnes, Rosenbaum, Vinson (ND Fla)), the Court affirmed the defendant’s 40-year sentence for receiving child pornography, an upward variance from a guideline range of 15 years.

First, the Court rejected the defendant’s argument that the sentencing court improperly relied on unreliable hearsay evidence from an earlier sexual abuse case.  The Court concluded that the defendant did “not even come close” to meeting his burden to prove that the evidence was unreliable.

Second, the defendant argued that the district court failed to give notice required by Rule 32(h) before imposing an upward departure.  The Court rejected that argument because the district court expressly imposed an upward variance (not a departure), for which no notice is required.  And the reasons for the sentence above the guideline range were based on the 3553(a) factors, not a departure provision in the Guidelines.  It did not matter that those reasons might have also fit under a departure provision.

Third, the Court concluded that the sentence was not substantively unreasonable.  The Court emphasized that the defendant had engaged in repeated acts of sexual abuse of children over two decades, even after he went to prison for it and was released; he blamed the victims rather than showed remorse; and he inflicted substantial and long-lasting harm to the victims.