United States v. Senke, No. 19-1287 (3d Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Senke was arrested after starting an online conversation with an officer posing as an underage boy. Senke requested naked photographs of the boy, asked about the boy’s sexual experiences, transmitted graphic photographs of himself, and offered to buy the boy gifts. Senke traveled to meet the boy. Detectives took Senke into custody. He was charged under 18 U.S.C. 2423(b), 2422(b), 1470. His public defender moved to withdraw. After interviewing Senke, the court permitted him to proceed pro se, with the public defender as standby counsel. Senke filed multiple unsuccessful pretrial motions before agreeing to accept appointed counsel (Comerford). Senke later asserted that Comerford tried to pressure him to take a plea, did not take or return phone calls, refused to go over evidence, calling it “to[o] disgusting,” failed to turn over discovery, and was not preparing a defense strategy. Senke did not specifically request the appointment of new counsel. Defense counsel did not present any evidence at trial, relying solely on an entrapment defense.
The Third Circuit affirmed Senke’s convictions. The district court’s failure to address Senke’s complaints regarding Comerford was an abuse of discretion but the court declined to review the error for prejudice on direct appeal in the first instance. Senke was not prejudiced by the court’s failure to verify on the record that Senke and his attorney discussed the presentence report. The court vacated in part; special conditions of supervised release banning Senke’s computer and internet use violated Circuit precedent.