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United States v. Goguen

United States District Court, D. Maine

November 16, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ROBERT GOGUEN

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MEMORANDUM IN OPPOSITION TO APPLICATION OF THE MANDATORY MINIMUM UNDER 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(b)(2)

          JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         A defendant, who has pleaded guilty to a federal offense of possession of child pornography, has a prior Connecticut conviction of sexual assault in the second degree. Applying an expansive view of the “relating to” requirement of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(b)(2) and the categorial approach for statutory analysis, the Court concludes the defendant's prior conviction constitutes a qualifying prior offense that triggers the mandatory ten-year imprisonment penalty under § 2252A(b)(2).

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 12, 2011, a federal grand jury indicted Robert Frederick Goguen for failure to register as a sex offender. Indictment (ECF No. 1), 1:11-cr-00003-JAW. On July 14, 2011, Mr. Goguen admitted that he committed the charged crime, Min. Entry (ECF No. 43), and on September 14, 2012, the Court sentenced Mr. Goguen to thirty-seven months of incarceration, three years of supervised release, a $100 special assessment and no fine. J. (ECF No. 80); Am. J. (ECF No. 90). Mr. Goguen appealed neither his conviction nor sentence to the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

         On December 14, 2016, a federal grand jury indicted Mr. Goguen for possession of child pornography, an alleged violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B). Indictment (ECF No. 1), 16-cr-00167-JAW. On September 15, 2017, Mr. Goguen pleaded guilty to this charge. Min. Entry (ECF No. 64). Mr. Goguen's sentencing hearing has been delayed while the Court considered his argument about the legal impact of his prior state of Connecticut conviction in 1996 for sexual assault in the second degree.[1] See Def.'s Mem. in Opp'n to the App. of the Mandatory Minimum under 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(b)(2) (ECF No. 83) (Def.'s Mem.); Gov't's Resp. to Def.'s Mem. in Opp'n to the App. of the Mandatory Minimum under 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(b)(2) (ECF No. 86) (Government's Opp'n); Def.'s Reply to Gov't's Resp. to App. of Mandatory Minimum (ECF No. 90) (Def.'s Reply).

         Section 2252A(b)(2) establishes a scale of penalties for possession of child pornography. Simple possession exposes a defendant to a maximum of ten years of imprisonment. Id. If the defendant possessed an image of child pornography that involved a prepubescent minor or a minor who has not attained the age of twelve, the statutory maximum is increased to twenty years. Id. Here, Mr. Goguen admitted that one or more of the images involved a prepubescent minor or a minor who had not attained twelve years of age. Prosecution Version at 1 (ECF No. 62). Mr. Goguen therefore faces a maximum sentence of twenty years of imprisonment and he does not contest this conclusion.

         If Mr. Goguen possessed an image of child pornography and if he had a qualifying prior conviction, he faces a mandatory minimum prison term of ten years and a maximum prison term of twenty years. Mr. Goguen challenges whether he has a qualifying prior conviction and thus whether he faces a ten-year mandatory minimum prison term under § 2252A(b)(2).

         II. THE CONTESTED ISSUES

         A. The Federal Enhancement

         Section 2252A(b)(2) of title 18 contains the following language applicable to individuals convicted of the possession of child pornography:

[I]f such person has a prior conviction . . . under the laws of any State relating to aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or abusive sexual conduct involving a minor or ward, or the production, possession, receipt, mailing sale, distribution, shipment, or transportation of child pornography, such person shall be . . . imprisoned for not less than 10 years nor more than 20 years.

         B. The Connecticut Sexual Assault Statute

         The Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) reveals that in 1996, Mr. Goguen was convicted of sexual assault in the second degree under the laws of the state of Connecticut and on September 6, 1996, he was sentenced to ten years in state prison with four years to serve and five years of probation.[2] PSR ¶ 31. The Connecticut statute under which Mr. Goguen was convicted reads in part:

(a) A person is guilty of sexual assault in the second degree when such person engages in sexual intercourse with another person and . . . (3) such other person is physically helpless.

         Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-71(a)(3). The Connecticut statute defines “physically helpless”:

“Physically helpless” means that a person is (A) unconscious, or (B) for any other reason, is physically unable to resist an act of sexual intercourse or sexual contact or to communicate unwillingness to an act of sexual intercourse or sexual contact.

Id. § 53a-65(6).

         To determine whether Mr. Goguen's prior Connecticut conviction of sexual assault in the second degree from 1996 relates to “sexual abuse” as stated in § 2252A(b)(2), the Court must address the following sub-issues raised by the parties:

(1) Whether the Court must use the categorical approach to determine if Mr. Goguen's Connecticut conviction is a qualifying predicate conviction for § 2252A(b)(2)'s sentencing enhancement.
(2) The impact of the “relating to” language in § 2252A(b)(2) on what convictions fall under the purview of “sexual abuse”.
(3) How should “sexual abuse” be defined -- by looking at its plain meaning or referencing § 2242 -- and does either definition change whether Mr. Goguen's prior conviction qualifies as predicate conviction under § 2252A(b)(2)?
(4) The definition of “sexual abuse” under § 2242.

         III. PARTIES' POSITIONS

         A. Mr. Goguen's Memorandum

         Mr. Goguen argues that the mens rea requirement for his prior Connecticut conviction and the mens rea requirement under § 2252A(b)(2) are different, and as a result, his Connecticut conviction does not constitute a qualifying prior offense for application of the ten-year mandatory minimum under § 2252A(b)(2). Def.'s Mem. at 1-2. Mr. Goguen contends that for his 1996 Connecticut conviction to constitute a qualifying offense under § 2252A(b)(2), it must “relate” to “sexual abuse”, which under federal law, requires a mens rea of “knowingly”. Id. at 2-4 (quoting § 2242).

         Mr. Goguen asserts that under Connecticut law there is no mens rea requirement; instead, one is guilty of sexual assault in the second degree when that person engages in sexual intercourse with another person who is physically helpless. Id. at 3-4 (quoting Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-71(a)(3)). Mr. Goguen argues that because Connecticut does not require the state to show a defendant engaged in sexual intercourse with a person under the age of sixteen whom the defendant knew was underage, only that a defendant knowingly in engaged in sexual intercourse with a person who was not yet sixteen, that it stands to reason that there is no “knowing” mens rea as to whether the person is physically helpless. Id. at 4. He cites United States v. Bruguier, 735 F.3d 754, 758, 760-61 (8th Cir. 2013), for the proposition that “knowingly” in § 2242(2) applies to both the engagement in the sexual act and the awareness that the participant is helpless. Id. at 5-6. In Mr. Goguen's view, because his prior Connecticut conviction requires a lesser degree of mens rea than the federal offense, the conviction is not a qualifying conviction under § 2252A(b)(2).

         B. The Government's Position

         The Government responds that the “relating to” language of § 2252A(b)(2) should be treated broadly and while §§ 2242(2) and 2252A(b)(2) provide some guidance on what “sexual abuse” means, the term “sexual abuse” for the purposes of the sentence enhancement of § 2252A(b)(2) is not defined by reference to § 2242(2)'s definition of sexual abuse. Government's Opp'n at 4-5. Consequently, the Government argues that “sexual abuse” for the purposes of § 2252A(b)(2) should be given a common meaning without tethering it to § 2242(2)'s definition of sexual abuse. Id. at 5 (citing United States v. Mateen, 806 F.3d 857, 860-61 (6th Cir. 2015)). Under this approach, the Government sets forth the Mateen Court's definition of sexual abuse: “use or treatment of so as to injure, hurt, or damage for the purpose of sexual or libidinal gratification.” Id. at 6 (quoting Mateen, 806 F.3d at 861).

         The Government asserts that under the categorical approach Mr. Goguen's prior Connecticut conviction is nevertheless equivalent to § 2242(2)'s definition of sexual abuse, and falls under the broader definition of sexual abuse in § 2252A(b)(2). Id. The Government points to this Court's previous conclusion that Mr. Goguen's Connecticut conviction is comparable to the federal sexual abuse statute listed in Tier III of the Sex Offender ...


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