In United States v. Phillips, No. 18-11737 (July 13, 2021) (Jill Pryor, Grant, Royal (MD Ga)), the Court affirmed in part and vacated in part defendant’s convictions relating to child pornography.
Defendant was charged with, and convicted of: (1) knowingly and intentionally using, persuading, inducing, and enticing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2251(a) and (e); (2) knowingly receiving, and attempting to receive, material containing child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252A(a)(2) and (b)(1); and (3) knowingly possessing, and attempting to possess, material containing child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252A(a)(5)(B) and (b)(2).
On appeal, defendant first challenged the jury instruction given as to count 1. He argued that the district court constructively amended the indictment because the indictment charged him with “knowingly and intentionally” causing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct, while the court’s instruction to the jury noted that the government need not prove that the defendant knew the victim was a minor. The Court found no reversible error because the statute does not require that the defendant know his victim’s age; therefore, the district court did not err in disregarding any language in the indictment that suggested otherwise.
Defendant next argued that he was improperly convicted and sentenced for both a crime and a lesser-included crime based on the same set of facts–receiving and possessing child pornography. The Court agreed that it was a violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause for defendant to be convicted of both an offense and its lesser-included offense, and vacated defendant’s conviction for count 3. The Court did so on plain error review.