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Man Sentenced to Only Five Years for Child Pornography Conviction

Posted by Seth Chazin | Jul 20, 2016 | 0 Comments

An appeals court rejected the U.S. Attorney's Office's attempt to overturn a federal judge's decision to give the lowest possible sentence to a man that downloaded and shared child pornography.

U.S. District Judge James Gwin of Cleveland, Ohio sentenced Ryan Collins to five years in prison, in February 2015, by polling the jury about an appropriate sentence. Police found over 1,500 files on Collins' computer. Collins was charged with distributing the images because he had used peer-to-peer file sharing programs. For this type of conviction, a federal judge can sentence a defendant to up to 20 years in prison if he is found guilty of distribution of child pornography. Yet, after the jury was polled,they believed that Collins should serve no more than five years for his crimes.

The U.S. Attorney's Office appealed the decision, saying it was improper for Gwin, who was appointed to the bench by President Clinton in 1997, to give a sentence based on a jury poll.  Yet, the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals  in Cincinnati rejected the appeal, saying that the judge gave many other reasons for the lower sentence.

Federal prosecutors were furious over the sentence given to Collins.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan at sentencing asked Gwin to give Collins the maximum allowed. Yet, in an opinion written by Senior Judge Ralph Guy Jr., the court ruled that judges are allowed to hand down sentences that are above or below the probation office's recommended guidelines if they disagree with the policy behind the guidelines and find other bases for a variance or sentencing departure.

This case is an example of the flaws in mandatory minimum sentences and the way federal sentences can be calculated.  

Robert Cheren, Collins' attorney, praised the 6th Circuit's ruling. He stated that Gwin's survey “was just one piece of the puzzle, and it was an important piece because it reflects community sentiment. “

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About the Author

Seth Chazin

Seth P. Chazin has aggressively defended clients in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases for over 30 years. He has extensive experience representing criminal defendants in federal and state court, while handling both state and federal appeals as well.


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“The death penalty is a lie, a misguided mistake born of anger and frustration. Capital punishment has become a perverse monument to inequality, to how some lives matter and others do not. It is a violent example of how we protect and value the rich and abandon and devalue the poor. The death penalty is a grim, disturbing shadow formed by the legacy of racial apartheid and bias against the poor that condemns the disfavored among us, but corrupts us all. It’s the perverse symbol elected officials use to strengthen their ‘tough on crime’ reputations and distract us from confronting the causes of violence. It is finally the enemy of grace, redemption and all of us who recognize that each person is more than their worse act.”
- Bryan Stevenson