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United States v. Blodgett

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

September 27, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
DOUGLAS BLODGETT, Defendant, Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MAINE [Hon. George Z. Singal, U.S. District Judge]

          Clifford B. Strike and Strike, Gonzales & Butler Bailey on brief for appellant.

          Richard W. Murphy, Acting United States Attorney, and Benjamin M. Block, Assistant United States Attorney, on brief for appellee.

          Before Torruella, Selya and Lynch, Circuit Judges.

          SELYA, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         In this sentencing appeal, we confront an issue of first impression in this circuit: defendant-appellant Douglas Blodgett asks us to declare unconstitutional, as violative of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, the mandatory minimum sentence for accessing child pornography applicable to any individual who has a prior state conviction for abusive sexual conduct involving a minor. See 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(b)(2). In the bargain, he also contends that this mandatory minimum constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Concluding that the defendant's asseverational array lacks force, we affirm the challenged sentence.

         I. BACKGROUND

         We briefly rehearse the background and travel of the case. Because this appeal follows the defendant's guilty plea, we draw the facts from the undisputed portions of the presentence investigation report and the sentencing transcript. See United States v. King, 741 F.3d 305, 306 (1st Cir. 2014); United States v. Dietz, 950 F.2d 50, 51 (1st Cir. 1991).

         On November 20, 1996, the defendant, then age twenty-six, was arrested for molesting a thirteen-year-old girl. This incident led to his 1997 conviction, in a Maine state court, on charges of unlawful sexual contact. See Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § 255 (1996), repealed by 2001 Me. Laws 562. Thereafter, the defendant had a clean slate for nearly two decades. In early 2016, though, an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security revealed that he had downloaded and viewed sexual depictions of prepubescent minors.

         On April 27, 2016, a federal grand jury sitting in the District of Maine charged the defendant with one count of accessing child pornography with the intent to view it. See 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B). Roughly four months later, the defendant pleaded guilty to the charge.

         At the disposition hearing, the district court determined that the defendant's total offense level and criminal history yielded a guideline sentencing range of 57 to 71 months. The court held, however, that a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence required by statute trumped the guideline range, see 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(b)(2), and sentenced the defendant to ten years' imprisonment. As relevant here, the statutory provision relied on by the court prescribes a ten-year minimum and a twenty-year maximum sentence if an individual has accessed child pornography with intent to view it and has a prior state conviction pertaining to "aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or abusive sexual conduct involving a minor."[1] Id. After the imposition of sentence, this timely appeal ensued.

         II. ANALYSIS

         On appeal, the defendant assigns error in two respects. We consider these ...


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