Law School Case Brief
United States v. Ray - 189 F. App'x 436 (6th Cir. 2006)
In order to uphold a conviction under 18 U.S.C.S. § 2252(a)(1), it is not necessary that the government prove that the visual depiction was produced by means that traveled through interstate commerce, but rather only that defendant knowingly transported the visual depiction in interstate commerce via his computer. 18 U.S.C.S. § 2252(a)(1).
Defendant-Appellant Ronnie Travis Ray was convicted by a jury on five counts of conduct involving child pornography, all in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2251(a), 2252(a)(1), and 2252(a)(4)(B). He appealed his conviction on four of those counts on the ground that Congress was not authorized under the Commerce Clause to enact the two federal criminal statutes underpinning the convictions. Ray argued that we should reverse his conviction on the fifth count on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction. Ray also argued that the trial court erred in admitting evidence, including testimony regarding his sexual activity with a minor not mentioned in the indictment. Finally, Ray appealed the district court's sentence, which exceeded the outer limit of the Guidelines range by twenty-five years.
Did the district court err in convicting Ray with five counts of conduct involving child pornography, all in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 2251(a), § 2252(a)(1), and § 2252(a)(4)(B), and sentencing him to 50 years' imprisonment?
The Court held that the district court did not err in admitting general atmosphere evidence, including testimony that minors were permitted to consume drugs and alcohol in Ray's apartment, because the evidence was permitted under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) to show modus operandi. The Court also held that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the jury's verdict convicting him of transporting or shipping child pornography in interstate commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 2252(a)(1). The Court further held that 18 U.S.C.S. § 2251(a) and § 2252(a)(4)(B) could be constitutionally applied to criminalize Ray’s conduct because there were numerous minors involved and defendant forced one minor to engage in oral sex. In vacating defendant's sentence and remanding for resentencing, the Court held that the district court did not explicitly respond to defendant's request for a lenient sentence due to poor health and did not adequately explain the imposition of an upward sentencing departure that exceeded 25 years.
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