Sentence enhancement upheld in child sexual exploitation case

A man convicted of sexually exploiting a minor couldn’t convince the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday that an enhancement to his sentence was not triggered by his prior state convictions for possession of child pornography.

Darin Kaufmann, who was arrested for stealing money from an elderly man he was caring for in exchange for room and board, was indicted on federal charges of receiving and possessing materials involving sexual exploitation of a minor after the man’s family found child pornography among his belongs.

Kaufmann pleaded guilty without a plea agreement and received a sentence enhancement stemming from his prior convictions for possession of child pornography in violation of Indiana Code § 35-42-4-4 (2007). He was handed an aggregate 15-year sentence with five years of supervised release. Kaufmann appealed, disagreeing with the Northern District Court’s determination that his Indiana convictions triggered the enhancements under 18 U.S.C. § 2252(b).

Specifically, he argued that the “relating to” language in § 2252(b) did not broaden the scope of state offenses that qualify as predicates for an enhancement and that the underlying Indiana statute criminalizing possession of child pornography is broader than federal possession of child pornography and therefore cannot support an enhancement under § 2252(b).

The 7th Circuit Court of appeals affirmed Kaufmann’s sentence in USA v. Darin Kaufmann, 18-2742, noting that although he was right in his assertion that the Indiana statute does not replicate the federal definition of child pornography, it demonstrates a substantial overlap in content. It rejected his position that the categorical approach ought to apply to § 2252(b).

“Kaufmann’s position runs into a critical problem: his arguments are incompatible with our decision in United States v. Kraemer — a case we decided after the parties submitted their briefs here,” Circuit Judge Michael Kanne wrote.

“As in Kraemer, the state statute of conviction here indisputably bears a connection to a topic enumerated in § 2252(b). Indeed, the Indiana statute addresses the same harm — sexual exploitation of minors — that the enhancement provision targets. And the state statute addresses that harm by criminalizing conduct that federal law deems possession of child pornography: knowing possession of images depicting sexual conduct by actual minors,” Kanne continued. “There is no doubt, then, that under Kraemer, Kaufmann’s convictions under Indiana Code § 35-42-4-4 are ones ‘relating to … possession … of child pornography.’”

It therefore concluded that pursuant to its decision in Kraemer, Kaufmann’s prior state convictions triggered the sentencing enhancements of § 2252(b).

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