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7th Circuit affirms sentence for sexual involvement with 12-year-old girl

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 135-month sentence given to a man who drove from Illinois to have sex with a 12-year-old Westfield girl, finding that although the District Court miscalculated the imprisonment range, the defendant was sentenced within the correct guidelines range.

Samuel Henzel met the girl online through a chat room about online video games. The two began texting and talking and made plans to meet. The girl did not know Henzel was really 29, although he knew she was 12. When she met him she was surprised by his age, but she agreed to go to a hotel with him. She became uncomfortable and told him she didn’t want to do anything, but he gave her alcohol and drugs and tried to have sex with her.

Henzel pleaded guilty to traveling across state lines with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. There was confusion by the government and the courts as to whether the base level under the sentencing guidelines included a cross-reference to another section of the law, which would require a higher sentencing range. The District Court determined that the government didn’t meet the burden to allow the cross-reference, applied a base level offense of 24, added levels due to circumstances of the crime, and then subtracted three levels because Henzel accepted responsibility.

The judge came up with an offense level of 27, which would have a guideline imprisonment range of 70 to 87 months. She sentenced him above the range to 135 months due to the victim’s age, because Henzel gave her drugs and alcohol, and because she told him she did not want to have sex with him.  

Henzel appealed the sentence in United States of America v. Samuel T. Henzel, No. 11-2293, claiming the District Court sentenced him four years above the guidelines. The 7th Circuit found the District Court actually miscalculated the applicable guidelines range because the cross-reference applied in Henzel’s case. Had the District judge applied the cross-reference, the total offense level would have ended up at 31, to which the applicable imprisonment range would be 108 to 135 months.

 

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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