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Life term of supervised release was not an unreasonable sentence for sex offender


U.S. v. Trailer is an appeal from a sentence impose for violation the terms of supervised release that was part of the defendant original sentence for failing to register as a sex offender in violation to 18 USC §2255. A special condition of the original supervised release condition what the defendant was prohibited from having contact with children under the age of 18. A few months after the defendant’s supervised release began, the probation officer filed a petition seeking revocation of his supervised release stating that the defendant was living with his new wife’s four minor children; failing to follow the probation officer’s instruction to have no contact with these children, and failing to answer truthful inquires by his probation officer relating to whether he was having contact with children. The court revoked his supervised release and imposed a sentence of 18 months and a life term of supervised release.

The sole issue on this appeal is whether the life term of supervised release is substantively unreasonable because it is greater than necessary to accomplish the goals of sentencing and is not reasonably related to the 18 USC § 3553 factors.

The court reviews the reasonableness of the federal criminal sentence by applying a two-step process: first the court looked to whether the district court committed any procedural error. Second the court determines whether the sentences is substantively reasonable in light of the totality of the circumstances and the § 3553(a) factors.

Under the first step the court found the sentencing court did not abuse its discretion by imposing a life term of supervised release because the life term was within the statutory authorized a term of five to life.

Under the second step the court found the life term imposed was also supported by the § 3553(a) factors. The underlying offense that led to his status as a sex offender involved sexually abusing his then-girlfriend’s eight year old daughter. Here the defendant was living with four children between the ages of 2 and 9 and he was regularly going to their elementary school.   The supervise release term was meant to protect against the same conduct that was the basis for his original sex-offense conviction. Furthermore the court found the that he lies to the probation officer about violating terms of his supervised release warranted the significantly long term of supervised release to promote respect for the law and to deter the future crimes of other defendants because not doing so would send a message that defendants can disregard the terms of their supervise release and then lie about it with impunity.

The Defendant’s record as a law abiding citizen for seven years and his motivation to care for his wife’s children did not change the fact that the prior molestation of the eight year old daughter meant he was prohibited from having contact with children under the age of 18.

The defendant submitted research to show that sex offenders as a group reoffend less than other criminal offenders to support his argument that the sentence was unreasonable. However the court found because the research does not show that the Defendant is less likely to re-offend. Finally the court noted that the Defendant’s life term of supervised release can be shortened in the future because the defendant can petition for modification of the conditions and ask for early termination.

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