Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, August 13, 2007

Vance: Enhancements for Unlawful Travel for Sex with Minor

In U.S. v. Vance, No. 06-13035 (Aug. 3, 2007), the Court affirmed the conviction and sentence of a defendant for attempting to travel in interstate commerce for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor.
The Court found no plain error in the district court’s exclusion, on hearsay grounds, of a defense witness’ statement that the defendant claimed would have been a "prior consistent statement," admissible to counter the government’s claim of recent fabrication. The Court noted defense counsel’s failure to proffer any basis for the statement’s admission at trial, and the district court’s judgment that the statement might have been part of the fabrication.
The Court also affirmed a sentence enhancement for unduly influencing a minor, despite the fact that the only person with whom the defendant communicated was an undercover police officer, not a minor. The Court held that by employing the undercover officer as an intermediary to effectuate his influence, he unduly influenced a minor. The focus is on the defendant’s state of mind, regardless of whether the victim is fictitious.
The Court also affirmed the imposition of an enhancement for use of a computer, rejecting the defendant’s argument that the officer, not him, did the "soliciting." The Court noted that the defendant used a computer to communicate with someone he believed had custody of a minor.