United States v. Michael, No. 17-3346 (8th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
In 2016, Michael, age 35, pled guilty to possession of child pornography. The court determined that his sentencing guideline range was 97-120 months’ imprisonment. The prosecutor recommended a term of 40 months. A general and forensic psychiatrist had interviewed Michael in 2014, had interviewed Michael’s parents, and had administered psychological tests; he opined that: Michael has Asperger's Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, and that his psychosexual and psychological development plateaued around early teens. Before sentencing, Michael had been actively involved in a sex offender treatment program. The director of associates at that program testified that Michael’s continued participation in the program caused him to believe that Michael was at a lower risk of recidivism. The court imposed a five-year term of probation with detailed conditions, varying from the guidelines because it was “the best solution for [Michael’s] Asperger’s problem and mental status.” In 2017, Michael was arrested for alleged violations of probation conditions relating to possession of materials involving pornographic/erotic or sexually explicit conduct; participation in sex offender counseling; use of online access without his probation officer’s approval; and untruthful responses to the probation officer’s questions. Michael admitted to each violation. A new judge imposed a 96-month sentence. The Eighth Circuit vacated the sentence. There is no indication the court considered the Sentencing Commission’s policy statements before imposing sentence; it is unclear whether the court was sufficiently informed about the case. The court failed to explain its decision to impose a sentence seven years beyond the guidelines range.