Conviction for crossing state lines to sexually abuse a minor upheld against Fourth Amendment challenge and claim of Government misconduct
Castaneda appealed his conviction for enticing a minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. §2422 and one count of crossing a state line with intent to engage in sexual activity with a person under the age of 12, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §2241(c). Following a federal jury trial, he was convicted of both counts and sentenced to 420 months. In his appeal he argued the indictment should have been dismissed because the government’s conduct in investigating him was so outrageous that it violated his due process rights. He also claimed the evidence of child pornography that was found on his computer should have been suppressed and not admitted at trial. Though he was not indicted with possession of child pornography, the evidence that he possessed it was admitted at his trial to prove his intent.
Law enforcement began its investigation when he responded to an ad on Craigslist from a purported 37- year-old female in Atlanta, Georgia who was “looking for someone with experience with REAL taboo to be a good teacher” for her 9-year-old daughter. Castaneda grabbed the bait and began communicating with Kandi, telling her he was experienced in “incest, pedophilia, and grooming” and went on about his own experiences with minors. Kandi responded that she had a 9-year-old daughter “wanting to learn more and looking for someone with experience like you.” It turned out that Kandi was an undercover law enforcement officer, and not the mother of a 9-year old, who had posted the ad on Craigslist.
Castaneda told Kandi he was willing to fly from his home in California to Atlanta to help sexually abuse Kandi’s 9-year old daughter and sent all kinds of instructions about sexually explicit acts he planned to commit. He took a flight to Atlanta and was arrested when he got off the plane.
His argued the indictment should be dismissed for Governmental misconduct by exposing him to child pornography in the course of its sting operation. The court of appeals found that the government’s conduct was anything but outrageous. After Castaneda requested a photo of Kandi, the agent sent him a link to a public “Meetme.com” online profile for a Katrina Cox, a previously convicted child pornographer who was cooperating with the government allowing the agents to use her identity. Through a series of searches Castaneda hacked into Cox’s email, he was able to find a website with child pornography and downloaded the pornography on his own.
As for suppressing the evidence discovered on his computer, the computers were turned over to the FBI by two friends who were staying in his condominium and accidentally found child pornography on one of his computers. The friend contacted the FBI, fearing that he may be the subject of prosecution for possessing the pornography. Castaneda argued that the friend was not authorized by him to turnover his computer to the FBI so the FBI unlawfully acquired it and searched it. The appeals court rejected his arguments of a Fourth Amendment search and seizure violation because the friends were private citizens and not government agents. No consent from Castaneda for the friends to give the computers to the FBI.
Castaneda testified on his behalf and when questioned on cross about the pornography found on his computer he invoked the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. He challenged the trial court’s instruction to the jury that they could consider his refusal to answer in assessing his credibility. But the appeals court upheld the instruction because a defendant who testifies cannot seek protection under the Fifth Amendment against matters reasonably related to the subject matter of the cross examination.