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Justices decline Md. child pornographer’s appeal of 420-year sentence

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the appeal of a Burtonsville man serving 420 years in federal prison for child pornography.

Kyle Stephen Thompson had urged the justices to review and overturn his conviction, stating through counsel that his videotaping of three preschool girls was not the “prevailing” purpose behind his sexual abuse of them.

Without comment, the justices let stand a lower court ruling that the federal child pornography statute’s prohibition on coercing children into sexually explicit behavior “for the purpose of” creating a video of those acts does not require that the video production be the defendant’s prevailing motive for the coercion.

The U.S. Justice Department had waived its right to respond to Thompson’s request for Supreme Court review unless the justices asked for a response, which they did not do.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to her Thompson’s appeal is just that and not a ruling on the merits of his legal arguments. The case was docketed at the high court as Kyle Stephen Thompson v. United States, No. 20-555.

Thompson, according to testimony and evidence at his federal court trial, video recorded his abuse of the girls – who ranged in age between 2 and 4 — between May 2015 to January 2017.

Police were alerted to Thompson by a confidential source who told investigators Thompson showed him several of the videos, according to testimony in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

Investigators detained Thompson and obtained a search warrant of his home, where Montgomery County officers found a memory card hidden in the laundry room, according to testimony.

U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang instructed the jurors that creating a video must be a motivating but not necessarily prevailing purpose behind the coercion of the child. The jury subsequently found Thompson guilty in September 2018 of 18 counts of child pornography, one for each video introduced into evidence at trial.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the conviction this year, prompting Thompson to seek Supreme Court review.

In that unsuccessful review request, Thompson’s attorney argued that the federal child pornography statute’s prohibition on coercing children “for the purpose of” creating a video refers to the defendant’s specific intent and not a secondary goal, as the 4th Circuit held.

“In short, Section 2251(a) [of the child pornography law] requires the defendant’s purpose for producing child pornography to be ‘the purpose’ for inducing or coercing the child victim to engage in sexually explicit conduct,” Stephen B. Mercer wrote in Thompson’s petition for Supreme Court review.

“Based on the evidence at trial, the jury could have rationally concluded that Mr. Thompson sexually abused the child victims and created video depictions of the abuse, but that he did not sexually abuse the children to create the videos,” added Mercer, of RaquinMercer LLC in Rockville. “For precisely this reason, it was crucial for the district court to adequately instruct the jury on the meaning of ‘for the purpose of” to ensure that Mr. Thompson, who disputed no other element, had a fair opportunity to present his defense.”

Mercer declined to comment Monday on the high court’s denial of the review request but said he will soon file another petition with the justices on Thompson’s behalf challenging his state court conviction regarding his abuse of the girls.

In the state proceeding, Thompson pleaded guilty in Montgomery County Circuit Court in March 2019 to 10 counts related to sexual abuse of a minor and was sentenced to three consecutive life terms plus 145 years to run consecutive to his federal sentence. The conditional plea agreement gave Thompson the right to challenge on appeal the validity of the search warrant of his home.

That appeal has so far failed, with the intermediate Court of Special Appeals upholding the warrant in April and Maryland’s top court — the Court of Appeals – declining in September to review that decision.

 


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