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United States v. Colson, No. 11-4709

Decided: June 25, 2011

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the 15 year mandatory minimum sentence for Ronald Colson who pleaded guilty to six counts of receiving movies depicting actual female minors engaged in actual and simulated genital and oral sex with adult males, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(2).  Because Colson had a previous Virginia state conviction which related to either sexual abuse or abusive sexual conduct involving a minor, the court imposed the longer mandatory sentence.

Colson’s previous conviction was for the “Production, Publication, Sale, or Possession, etc. of Obscene Items Involving Children.”  On appeal, Colson contended that his previous conviction did not qualify as a predicate offense because when considered under the categorical approach, relate to sexual abuse.  Under the categorical approach, the previous conviction must be evaluated taking the most benign conduct that could support a conviction.  Colson claimed that under the relevant statute for his previous conviction, he could have been convicted simply for producing “a lewd exhibition of nudity” of a minor.  However, the statute has not been interpreted this way under Virginia law, and the court concluded that Colson read the scope of convictions too narrowly that can serve as predicate offenses.  Therefore, the court affirmed his sentence and the judgment of the lower court.

Full Opinion

-Jennifer Routh