from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Georgia D.C. Docket No. 3:15-cr-00012-TCB-RGV-1
WILSON and DUBINA, Circuit Judges, and GOLDBERG, [*] Judge.
WILSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE:
case involves the dissemination of child pornography through
a peer-to-peer file sharing program called Ares. A jury
convicted appellant Charles Carroll of knowingly possessing
and distributing hundreds of images and videos depicting the
sexual exploitation of minors, 18 U.S.C. §§
2252(a)(4)(B), (a)(2), some of whom were less than twelve
years old. The district court applied five Guidelines
enhancements and sentenced Carroll to 150 months in prison.
appeal requires us to determine whether a lawful warrant
supported the search of Carroll's home, whether the
government put forth sufficient evidence to sustain his
convictions, and whether the district court properly enhanced
his sentence. Upon thorough review of the record and with the
benefit of oral argument, we affirm in part, but we reverse
Carroll's distribution conviction because the government
failed to put forth any evidence that Carroll knew downloaded
files were automatically placed into a shared folder
accessible to the Ares peer-to-peer network.
October 22, 2014, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI)
seized two laptops and an external hard drive from
Carroll's Newnan, Georgia home. Forensic analysis later
revealed that one of the laptops, a Dell, held 314 images and
65 videos of child pornography in its "unallocated
space"-a place where deleted files can still be
retrieved using special software. Those files were downloaded
from the peer-to-peer file sharing program Ares over the
course of the previous eleven months. Some of the files had
been downloaded and deleted, along with the Ares program
itself, just days before the laptop's seizure.
networks like Ares are "so called because users'
computers communicate directly with each other, not through
central servers." Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
v. Grokster, Ltd., 545 U.S. 913, 919-20, 125 S.Ct. 2764,
2770 (2005). This decentralized system allows users to search
for files across the peer-to-peer network and then to
download files directly from the computers of other users.
Ares, like many peer-to-peer programs before it,
available for free over the internet and is commonly used to
share music and videos. When downloaded, Ares sets up a
shared folder on the computer where, by default, it
automatically places all subsequent downloads. Once a file is
placed in the shared folder, it is immediately available for
an Ares user changes the default settings or deliberately
moves files out of the shared folder, downloaded files will
remain freely accessible to anyone else on the Ares
network-including the GBI Internet Crimes Against Children
Task Force. About a month before the GBI searched
Carroll's home, an agent tapped into the Ares network and
discovered twenty-two "files of
interest" that were being shared from Carroll's
IP address. Disguised as an Ares peer, the agent downloaded
two videos directly from Carroll's computer, both of
which contained child pornography. After tracing the IP
address to Carroll's internet service account registered
to his home in Newnan, the GBI sought out and received a
warrant from the Georgia Superior Court, which it executed at
Carroll's home on the morning of October 22.
months later, a federal grand jury charged Carroll with one
count of knowingly distributing a visual depiction of a minor
engaged in sexually explicit conduct, 18 U.S.C. §
2252(a)(2), (b)(1), and one count of knowingly possessing a
visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit
conduct, 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B), (b)(2). Carroll
filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized from his home,
which the district court denied. A jury found Carroll guilty
on both counts and made a special finding that Carroll
possessed materials involving the sexual exploitation of a
minor under the age of twelve. At sentencing, the district
court applied five Guidelines enhancements, finding that: (1)
the images depicted minors under twelve; (2) the images
portrayed sadistic or masochistic conduct or violence; (3)
the offense involved 600 or more images; (4) the offense
involved use of a computer service; and (5) Carroll's
testimony at trial obstructed justice. This produced a
guideline range of 210 to 262 months; the district court
sentenced Carroll to 150 months' imprisonment.
review de novo whether a search warrant is supported by
probable cause, accepting the factual findings of the
district court unless clearly erroneous. United States v.
Brundidge, 170 F.3d 1350, 1352 (11th Cir. 1999) (per
curiam). Likewise, we review de novo whether a warrant lacked
the particularity required by the Fourth Amendment.
United States v. Bradley, 644 F.3d 1213, 1258-59
(11th Cir. 2011). "We review the sufficiency of evidence
to support a conviction de novo, viewing the evidence in the
light most favorable to the government and drawing all
reasonable inferences and credibility choices in favor of the
jury's verdict." United States v. Taylor,
480 F.3d 1025, 1026 (11th Cir. 2007).
review the district court's application of the Guidelines
de novo and its findings of fact for clear error. United
States v. Smith, 231 F.3d 800, 806 (11th Cir. 2000).
Because Carroll argues for the first time on appeal that the
district court erred in applying a sentencing enhancement for
possession of more than 600 images involving the sexual
exploitation of a minor, U.S.S.G. § 2G2.2(b)(7), we will
review the application of that enhancement for plain error.
United States v. Rodriguez, 398 F.3d 1291, 1298
(11th Cir. 2005). Plain error review requires a showing that
(1) there was an error; (2) it was plain; (3) it affected
substantial rights; and (4) it seriously affected the
fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial
discussion is divided into three parts. First, we address
whether the warrant authorizing the search of Carroll's
home met the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. Next, we
consider the sufficiency of the evidence to support his