United States v. Vallejos

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 02-10-2014
  • Case #: 13-10025
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Court Judge Gould for the Court; Circuit Court Judges Hawkins and Paez
  • Full Text Opinion

If one knowingly uses a file-sharing network to download child pornography, then he is engaging in the distribution of such materials, whether or not he knows he is allowing others to access those files.

Eric Paul Vallejos was found guilty at a jury trial under 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2), receipt of material involving the sexual exploitation of minors, after he used the peer-to-peer file-sharing network LimeWire to discover pornographic images and videos of children. Vallejos appealed three of the district court’s decisions: (1) Rejecting his request to admit his unedited confession under the Rule of Completeness, Federal Rule of Evidence 106; (2) Refusal to instruct the jury on the lesser charge of possession of child pornography; and (3) Application of a sentencing enhancement for distribution. The panel affirmed each of these decisions. First, the Rule of Completeness should only be applied to correct a misleading impression of an edited or partial statement. Because Vallejos wanted the redacted portions of his confession admitted to “prove his character,” the Rule of Completeness argument was properly rejected. Second, “ . . . a defendant who is charged with receipt of child pornography is entitled to an instruction on possession only ‘if the evidence would permit a jury rationally to find him guilty of possession and acquit him of receipt.’” Keeble v. United States. The panel found that no rational jury could find Vallejos guilty of possession and acquit him of receipt. Third, the panel held that “ . . . the knowing use of a file-sharing program to download child pornography involves not merely the receipt of illicit material, but also the reciprocal distribution of it.” One’s mens rea as to allowing others access to the material is not an issue. Additionally, it does not matter whether another actually downloads the file because the act of file-sharing child pornography meets the definition of distribution. The panel states that ignorance may be able to defeat a distribution enhancement, but this defense was not elaborated upon. AFFIRMED.

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