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United States v. Westbrook

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

February 4, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
NATHAN ALAN WESTBROOK

OPINION

MYRON H. THOMPSON, District Judge.

Defendant Nathan Alan Westbrook pled guilty to possession of child pornography, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B). At his sentencing, the court accepted the plea agreement and granted his motion for a downward variance. After applying the sentencing framework laid out in United States v. Klear, 3 F.Supp. 3d 1298 (M.D. Ala. 2014) (Thompson, J.), the court imposed a sentence of 33-months imprisonment, followed by a 10-year term of supervised release. This opinion explains why the court granted this variance.

Factual Background

In April 2013, Alabama Bureau of Investigation agents downloaded 40 images of child pornography from a then-unknown source using an online peer-to-peer file-sharing program. Through records obtained by a subpoena, the agents linked the Internet Protocol address of the computer to Westbrook's address. They obtained and executed a search warrant for his residence. They recovered three data-storage devices, and, on at least one of them, they discovered child pornography. Agents found six images and 72 videos of confirmed child pornography, among other, legal pornography.

Westbrook was charged in a two-count indictment with distribution of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(2), and possession of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B). Pursuant to a plea agreement, Westbrook pled guilty to the possession charge, and the government agreed to drop the distribution charge.

Sentencing Guidelines Calculation

The United States Probation Office, applying the 2014 version of the United States Sentencing Commission Guidelines Manual, determined that Westbrook's sentencing range under the Guidelines and applicable statutes is 97-120 months. According to the Guidelines, his Base Offense Level is 18. U.S.S.G. § 2G2.2(a). Westbrook also qualifies for five Special Offense Characteristics, leading to a total 15-level increase as follows:

• Because some of the files on his computer portrayed pre-pubescent minors, he receives a two-level increase. U.S.S.G. § 2G2.2(b)(2).
• Because he distributed the files, albeit without monetary gain or distribution to a minor, he receives a two-level increase. U.S.S.G. § 2G2.2(b)(3)(F).

• Because some of the files on his computer contained sadistic, masochistic, or violent images, he receives a four-level increase. U.S.S.G. § 2G2.2(b)(4).

• Because he used a computer to possess and distribute the pornography, he receives a two-level increase. U.S.S.G. § 2G2.2(b)(6).

• Because he is deemed to have possessed more than 600 images, he receives a five-level increase. U.S.S.G. § 2G2.2(b)(7)(D).[1]

After a three-level downward adjustment for acceptance of responsibility, U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1(a) & (b), these enhancements resulted in a final offense level of 30. Because Westbrook has no other criminal history, his Criminal History Category is I. A Criminal History Category of I and an offense level of 30 yields a sentence range of 97-121 months. Because the maximum term of imprisonment under the statute is 120 months, the applicable Guidelines range is 97-120 months. 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5) & (b)(2).

Neither party objected to this calculation, although, as noted above, Westbrook moved for a variance under the Klear framework, and the government agreed to its application. The court now turns to application of that framework.

The Klear Framework

In Klear, this court rejected the Guidelines framework for child pornography as unmoored from the current reality of file sharing and unreasonable under the factors laid out in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). In Klear, the court noted that, in 2012, the Sentencing Commission issued a report on non-production child pornography offenses. 3 F.Supp. 3d at 1303 (citing United States Sentencing Comm'n, Special Report to Congress: Federal Child Pornography Offenses (Dec. 2012)). In the report, the Commission argued that, because times have changed since the child pornography guidelines were created-specifically, that the rise of the internet has transformed how child pornography is typically obtained-the Guidelines are now anachronistic and do not adequately distinguish among offenders on the basis of the § 3553(a) factors.

In light of this report, and in an effort to better capture the § 3553(a) factors, the court created the following framework: (I) a Base Offense Level of 18, [2] (II) up to nine additional levels for the content and size of the collection; (III) up to nine additional levels for engagement with other offenders; (IV) up to five additional levels for previous criminal sexual behavior with youth; and (V) two floater points if one category ...


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