United States v. Sullivan

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 05-28-2014
  • Case #: 12-10196; 12-10217
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Ikuta for the Court; Circuit Judge Tallman and District Judge O’Connell
  • Full Text Opinion

Venue in district court is proper when an essential conduct element of the offense continues into the charging district.

Edward Sullivan was convicted under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2251(a) and 2252(a)(4)(B) for producing and possessing a sexually explicit video depicting a fourteen-year-old girl. Before trial, Sullivan moved to suppress evidence obtained from his laptop. He argued the delay between the seizure and when the warrant was obtained was unreasonable, therefore violating his Fourth Amendment rights. The district court denied the motion. During trial, Sullivan moved to dismiss Count 1 for lack of venue because the video was filmed in in the Eastern District of California, and the district court was in the Northern District. Sullivan also moved to dismiss Count 2 because “the sex video was not sufficiently connected to interstate commerce.” Both motions were denied. Sullivan was found guilty, and the district court sentenced him to mandatory minimum imprisonment for each conviction, to be served concurrently, followed by a lifetime supervised release. The district court also sustained Sullivan’s objection to the “two-level Guidelines enhancement for obstruction of justice.” Sullivan appealed, and the government cross-appealed the obstruction enhancement ruling. The Ninth Circuit reviewed the district court’s venue determination under 18 U.S.C. § 3237(a), stating “[v]enue is proper when an ‘essential conduct element’ of the offense continues into the charging district.” The panel determined that Sullivan’s conduct that led to Count 1 spanned both districts, so venue was proper. The panel also considered Sullivan’s other motions, and determined that the district court applied the proper analysis. However, the panel determined the district court erred in sustaining the obstruction enhancement objection by applying an incorrect basis for excluding the enhancement. The panel remanded for resentencing using the correct legal analysis. AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part, and REMANDED.

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