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Lockhart v. United States

Supreme Court of the United States

November 3, 2015, Argued; March 1, 2016, Decided

No. 14-8358

Opinion

JUSTICE Sotomayor delivered the opinion of the Court.

Defendants convicted of possessing child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. §2252(a)(4) are subject to a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence and an increased maximum sentence if they have “a prior conviction . . . under the laws of any State relating to aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or abusive sexual conduct involving a minor or ward.” §2252(b)(2).

The question before us is whether the phrase “involving a minor or ward” modifies all items in the list of predicate crimes (“aggravated sexual abuse,” “sexual abuse,” and “abusive sexual conduct”) or only the one item that immediately precedes it (“abusive sexual conduct”). Below, the Court of Appeals [***5]  for the Second Circuit joined several other Courts of Appeals in holding that it modifies only “abusive sexual conduct.” The Eighth Circuit has reached the contrary result. We granted certiorari to resolve that split. 575 U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 2350, 192 L. Ed. 2d 143 (2015). We affirm the Second Circuit’s holding that the phrase “involving a minor or ward” in §2252(b)(2) modifies only “abusive sexual conduct.”

In April 2000, Avondale Lockhart was convicted of sexual abuse in the first degree under N. Y. Penal Law Ann. §130.65(1) (West ***. Supp. 2015). The  [*962]  crime involved his then 53-year-old girlfriend. Presentence Investigation Report (PSR), in No. 11-CR-231-01, p. 13, ¶¶47-48. Eleven years later, Lockhart was indicted in the Eastern District of New York for attempting to receive child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. §2252(a)(2) and for possessing child pornography in violation of §2252(a)(4)(B). Lockhart pleaded guilty to the possession offense and the Government dismissed the receipt offense.

Lockhart’s presentence report calculated a guidelines range of 78 to 97 months for the possession offense. But the report also concluded that Lockhart was subject to §2252(b)(2)’s mandatory minimum because his prior New York abuse conviction related “to aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or abusive sexual conduct involving [***6]  a minor or ward.” PSR ¶¶87-88.

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136 S. Ct. 958 *; 194 L. Ed. 2d 48 **; 2016 U.S. LEXIS 1611 ***; 84 U.S.L.W. 4112; 26 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 9

AVONDALE LOCKHART, Petitioner v. UNITED STATES

Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.

Prior History:  [***1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

United States v. Lockhart, 749 F.3d 148, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 9071 (2d Cir. N.Y., 2014)

Disposition: Affirmed.

CORE TERMS

sexual abuse, predicates, modifying, sexual conduct, sexual-abuse, aggravated, offenses, words, child pornography, adults, enhancement, sentence, convicted, last antecedent, terms, series-qualifier, sexual, prior conviction, canon, mandatory minimum, preceding, commerce, template, qualify, predicate crime, superfluity, offenders, lenity, sex, legislative history

Criminal Law & Procedure, Crimes Against Persons, Sex Crimes, Child Pornography, Sentencing, Ranges, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Interpretation, Rule of Lenity