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United States v. Piggott

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

December 1, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
RICHARD PIGGOTT

OPINION AND ORDER

MYRON H. THOMPSON, District Judge.

Defendant Richard Piggott is now before the court for sentencing for possession of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5). As part of this process, defense counsel has argued that Piggott has had severe problems with mental and emotional development since birth. It could well be that this stunted development led to the crime that brings Piggott before the court today. The court therefore orders the following: (1) an evaluation pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4244 of whether Piggott should be committed to a suitable facility for treatment in lieu of imprisonment; and (2) a presentence study' on Piggott's mental-health condition pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3552(b), for the purpose of assisting the court in fashioning an appropriate sentence, should the court find that Piggott does not need treatment in custody in lieu of imprisonment.

I. BACKGROUND

Piggott has borderline intellectual functioning that can be traced, in part, to being born with an absence of oxygen supply to certain organs at birth (anoxia). He spent his childhood in special-education classes. His IQ remains in the mid-70s, and he currently spells, reads, and does math at a second-to-fourth-grade level.

This borderline intellectual functioning led to severe issues for Piggott's emotional development. He has no friends and has never had a serious romantic relationship. He lives at home and is completely dependent on his parents for daily living. He is a recluse, spending an average day sitting on the couch, smoking cigarettes, and watching television. In both his written report and oral testimony, Dr. David Ghostley, a registered psychologist, noted that, if Piggott were incarcerated, his stunted intellectual and emotional development would make him "easy prey" for predators and would likely lead to ongoing problems with staff, for it is likely they would not understand his condition.

II. TREATMENT IN LIEU OF IMPRISONMENT

The first questions are whether Piggott's criminal conduct can be explained, at least in part, by mental illness and whether he should be committed to a suitable treatment facility rather than imprisoned.

18 U.S.C. § 4244 "allows for hospitalization rather than mere imprisonment for a defendant who requires inpatient mental-health treatment." United States v. Hollon, 983 F.Supp.2d 1379, 1380-81 (M.D. Ala. 2012) (Thompson, J.). At any time prior to sentencing, the court may order such a hearing on its own, or in response either party's motion, "if it is of the opinion that there is reasonable cause to believe that the defendant may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect for the treatment of which he is in need of custody for care or treatment in a suitable facility." 18 U.S.C. § 4244. Because of Piggott's condition, the court will hold a hearing pursuant 18 U.S.C. § 4244(c).

Section 4244 authorizes the court to order a psychiatric or psychological evaluation prior to the hearing, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4247(b) and (c). 18 U.S.C. § 4244(b). "Unless impracticable, the psychiatric or psychological examination shall be conducted in the suitable facility closest to the court." 18 U.S.C. § 4247(b). For the purpose of that examination, the court may commit the defendant for a reasonable period, not to exceed 30 days, and, after that, the director of the facility to which the defendant is committed may apply for a reasonable extension, not to exceed 15 days. Id . The resulting report should address the matters set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 4247(c). See 18 U.S.C. § 4244(b). In addition, "if the report includes an opinion by the examiners that the defendant is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect but that it is not such as to require his custody for care or treatment in a suitable facility, the report shall also include an opinion by the examiner concerning the sentencing alternatives that could best accord the defendant the kind of treatment he does need." Id . These "sentencing alternatives" could include recommendations for treatment in prison as well as treatment that follows imprisonment, such as counseling sessions or drug-treatment programs, even though his conditions do not require treatment in lieu of imprisonment. The court will order Piggott committed to the Bureau of Prisons for an evaluation pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4244(b).

Upon the completion of the evaluation, the court will hold the hearing pursuant to § 4244(c). "[I]f the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant is suffering from a mental disease or defect and should be committed to a facility for treatment in lieu of incarceration, then the court may commit the defendant to the custody of the Attorney General, who will hospitalize him." Hollon, 983 F.Supp.2d at 1381 (citing 18 U.S.C. § 4244(d)). "Such a commitment constitutes a provisional sentence of imprisonment to the maximum term authorized by law for the offense for which the defendant was found guilty." 18 U.S.C. § 4244(d). If he is so committed, a defendant "may be released from the hospital when the director of the facility determines that he no longer requires inpatient care." Hollon, 983 F.Supp.2d at 1381 (citing 18 U.S.C. § 4244(e)). "At that time, if the provisional sentence imposed has not yet expired, then the court will proceed to sentencing and can modify the provisional sentence according to the Sentencing Guidelines." Id.

III. PRESENTENCE STUDY

In addition to the above study, the court also orders a mental-health evaluation pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3552(b), for the purpose of assisting it in fashioning an appropriate sentence if Piggott is not found to need treatment in lieu of imprisonment.

"Although district courts are no longer bound to follow the Sentencing Guidelines after United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), they still must consult the Guidelines and take them into account when sentencing defendants." United States v. Todd, 618 F.Supp.2d 1349, 1352-53 (M.D. Ala. 2009) (Thompson, J.). The court must calculate the applicable range of sentences recommended by the Guidelines. The court may then decide to impose a sentence outside of the Guidelines system, commonly known as a "variance."

The court is bound, however, to impose a sentence that is reasonable. The factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) guide the court's determination of the reasonableness of a sentence. Those factors are (1) the nature and circumstances of the offense; (2) the history and characteristics of the defendant; (3) the need for the sentence imposed to punish the offender, protect the public from the defendant, rehabilitate the defendant, deter others, and provide medical care; (4) the kinds of sentences available; (5) the sentencing range established by the Sentencing Guidelines; (6) any pertinent policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission; (7) the need to avoid ...


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