Law School Case Brief
United States v. Harmon - 593 F. App'x 455 (6th Cir. 2014)
A person can be convicted of violating 18 U.S.C.S. § 2422(b) if he or she knowingly uses interstate commerce to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce any individual who has not attained the age of 18 years, to engage in prostitution or any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, or attempts to do so.
Theodore R. Harmon (Harmon) appealed his jury conviction and sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b), which criminalizes an attempt to persuade, coerce, or entice a minor to engage in sexual activity while utilizing means of interstate commerce. Harmon pled not guilty to a charge under this statute, but was convicted by a jury and subsequently sentenced to 168 months' incarceration, to be followed by lifetime supervised release. Harmon's appeal concerned both his conviction and sentence. First, Harmon alleged that the district court abused its discretion in admitting evidence of his statements that he had prior sexual experience with underage girls, and also in admitting evidence of an overnight bag that was found in his car at the time of his arrest. Second, Harmon challenged the sufficiency of evidence proving each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, and specifically, argued that the Government failed to show that Harmon had the intent to entice. Third, Harmon argued that the district court erred in giving Jury Instruction 20, which clarified the meaning of the words "persuade, induce, entice, or coerce" as used in the statute, because the instruction was allegedly not supported by law and misled the jury. Fourth, Harmon contended that the district court committed procedural error in sentencing because the court did not provide a specific explanation for imposing a life term of supervised release. The court affirmed Harmon's conviction and the district court's sentencing order.
Did the district court err in its conviction and sentencing of defendant?
In a conviction under 18 U.S.C.S. § 2422(b) of attempting to persuade, coerce, or entice a minor to engage in sexual activity while utilizing means of interstate commerce, defendant's statements to an undercover agent about his prior sexual experience with minors were properly admitted as evidence of defendant's state of mind and not as prior bad acts under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b). The evidence was sufficient to show that defendant had the requisite intent under § 2422(b), and that he actually intended to meet a minor and persuade her to engage in sexual activity, because defendant asked the agent to pass along communications to the agent's minor "daughter" including a nude photo of defendant, and defendant made promises by guaranteeing that he was drug and disease free and by arranging to meet the agent and the minor at a specific location in defendant's home state.
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