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United States v. Johnston

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

May 26, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JAMES E. JOHNSTON, Defendant-Appellant

Argued and Submitted, San Francisco California March 9, 2015

Page 935

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 936

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. D.C. No. 2:07-cr-00425-MCE-1. Morrison C. England, Jr., Chief District Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY [*]

Criminal Law

The panel affirmed convictions for receipt of child pornography and conspiracy to produce child pornography and to travel internationally to engage in illicit sex, but vacated the judgment and remanded with instructions that the district court vacate the defendant's conviction for possession of child pornography.

The panel reiterated that the offense of possession of child pornography is a lesser included offense of receipt of child pornography, and that under the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, it is constitutional error to enter a conviction against a defendant for both receipt and possession of child pornography for the same conduct. The panel held that in this case the record does not allow the conclusion that the convictions for receipt and possession were based on separate conduct.

The panel held that a reasonable jury could have found beyond a reasonable doubt each element of conspiracy to produce child pornography under 18 U.S.C. § 2251, and that the search of the defendant's computer did not exceed the scope of the search warrant.

The panel rejected the defendant's contention that the district court erred at sentencing by referencing facts that were stripped from the draft presentence report and by admonishing him for failing to apologize for his actions, where the district court (1) clarified that the sentence was based solely on facts that were proven to the jury and undisputed sections of the presentence report and (2) explicitly recognized that remaining silent was the defendant's right.

Joseph J. Wiseman (argued), Wiseman Law Group, PC, Davis, California, for Defendant-Appellant.

Heiko P. Coppola (argued), Assistant United States Attorney; Benjamin B. Wagner, United States Attorney; Camil A. Skipper, Assistant United States Attorney and Appellate Chief, Sacramento, California, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before: M. Margaret McKeown, Mary H. Murguia, and Michelle T. Friedland, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge McKeown.

OPINION

Page 937

McKEOWN, Circuit Judge

An investigation of a major child pornography website, " Illegal.cp", led federal agents to a desktop computer in James Johnston's home office. The contents of that computer were the basis of his convictions for possession and receipt of child pornography as well as conspiracy to produce child pornography and to travel internationally to engage in illicit sex.

Central to this appeal are Johnston's convictions for both receipt and possession of child pornography. Consistent with our precedent in United States v. Davenport, 519 F.3d 940 (9th Cir. 2008), as well as the views of a majority of the other circuits to consider the issue, we reiterate that the offense of possession of child pornography is a lesser included offense of receipt of child pornography. Under the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, it is constitutional error to enter a conviction against a defendant for both receipt and possession of child pornography for the same conduct. See Brown v. Ohio, 432 U.S. 161, 168-69, 97 S.Ct. 2221, 53 L.Ed.2d 187 (1977); Davenport, 519 F.3d at 947-48. Johnston's conviction for possession of child pornography must be vacated. Johnston's remaining challenges do not merit reversal--sufficient evidence supports the jury's verdict; the search of his computer did not exceed the scope of the search warrant; and the district court's comments at sentencing do not constitute procedural or constitutional error.

Background

In February 2006, federal agents learned that James Johnston had applied for membership with a child pornography website. Later that year, agents obtained and executed a search warrant for his home and computers.

This search revealed that Johnston had stored images and videos depicting child pornography in three places. To begin, Johnston's hard drive contained 304 videos downloaded from the internet. Johnston also had received a compact disc with more than ninety explicit images. Finally, Johnston's email inbox contained a total of four emails with attached images that were duplicates of the images contained on the compact disc.

Agents searching Johnston's computer also discovered a series of sexually explicit Yahoo Instant Messenger chats between Johnston and a user named " Switlass." In these chats, Johnston expressed a desire to obtain child pornography and travel ...


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