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

February 17, 2012

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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