7th Circuit: Mother’s sentence, restitution order affirmed in child porn case

A Hammond woman convicted for possession of child porn will keep her enhanced sentence and restitution order after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the rulings in her case Friday.

Sheila Geary’s husband, David Geary, was convicted and sentenced to 24 years in prison after he took pornographic photographs of two young children that he sexually abused while they were in his care. He was also ordered to pay $111,200 to his victims.

Shiela, who was indicted as a co-defendant, pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography and was sentenced to 57 months in prison with an order to pay $55,600 in restitution jointly and severally with her husband. She kept a thumb drive containing illicit photos of a child on a thumb drive hidden behind a mirror in their home. Shiela asserted that she kept them in case “[s]hit hit the fan and [she] needed some proof.”

The woman appealed in USA v. Sheila Geary, 19-2299, arguing both that the Northern District Court of Indiana incorrectly applied sentencing guidelines that enhanced her recommended sentencing range and that it failed to adequately explain her restitution liability.

Rejecting both assertions, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals first disagreed with Sheila’s argument that the district court should have calculated her guidelines range under USSG § 2G2.2 rather than § 2G2.1. Instead, the 7th Circuit found that despite her contentions, Sheila “permitted” her husband to use their daughter for child porn, concluding that “she had explicit knowledge that David had taken photos of MF-2 and did nothing to prevent him from doing so again.”

It thus concluded that even without David’s testimony, there was enough evidence to support the application of § 2G2.2.

“While Sheila minimized her culpability for David’s exploitation of MF-2, the district court determined that her version of events was self-interested revisionist history. For example, Sheila claimed that she confronted her husband about the photos of MF-2, but the district court found Sheila unconvincing on this count. Likewise, while Sheila claimed both a fear of her husband and a desire to protect her children, she never called the police to report child abuse. Instead, she only called the police in her own defense,” Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett wrote for the 7th Circuit.

“And while Sheila cites as evidence of her good intentions her decision to turn the photos of MF-2 over to the police, she made that decision only after word of MF-2’s abuse had already gotten out to Sheila’s eldest daughter. Sheila only acted, as the district court put it, once ‘her own involvement would be revealed unless she acted first.’ In sum, the district court found that Sheila was a but-for cause of MF-2’s abuse, because ‘[w]ithout her consent, MF-2 may have been spared.’ We see no clear error in these factual findings,” the 7th Circuit continued.

As to Sheila’s argument that the district court failed to adequately explain its calculation of the restitution amount, the 7th Circuit noted that the district court was clear that the source of the $55,600 amount was the restitution calculation made in David’s sentencing.

“The inclusion of the restitution amount in Sheila’s PSR was sufficient notice to her that David’s restitution amount would be used in her sentencing,” it concluded. “She could have challenged the calculation of that amount, but she did not. There was no error, then, in relying on the calculation from David’s sentencing to determine the amount of restitution that Sheila would owe.”

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