Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Castaneda: Upholding Enticement Convictions and 35-year Sentence

In United States v. Castaneda, No. 19-12623 (May 19, 2021) (William Pryor, Luck, Ed Carnes), the Court affirmed the defendant’s enticement convictions and sentence.

First, the Court found no error in refusing to dismiss the indictment based on outrageous government misconduct by exposing him to child pornography during its sting operation.  The Court emphasized he (not the government) exposed himself to child pornography, and no court has ever found such government misconduct to rise to the level of dismissal.  “The hunt for Sasquatch will have continue in another case.”

Second, the Court upheld the denial of a motion to suppress child pornography found on the defendant’s computers.  Two friends living in his apartment discovered the pornography and voluntarily turned the computers over to the FBI, which then obtained a search warrant.   Because those private actors acted independently of law enforcement, there was no Fourth Amendment violation, regardless of the defendant’s consent.

Third, the district court did not abuse its discretion in instructing the jury that the defendant did not have a Fifth Amendment privilege to refuse to answer questions on cross examination, and in instructing the jury that his refusal to answer questions could be used to assess his credibility.

Fourth, the Court found no abuse of discretion in excluding the defendant’s expert witness, Dr. Herriot, who would testify about generalized background information that people sometimes mix fact with fiction on the internet.  The Court had recently upheld the exclusion of that expert’s testimony in another case.

Finally, the Court found that the defendant’s 35-year guideline sentence, five years above the 30-year mandatory minimum and well below the maximum of life, was not substantively unreasonable.