USA v. Michael Stahl
Per Curiam OPINION filed :the district court's judgment is AFFIRMED, decision not for publication. Boyce F. Martin , Jr., Circuit Judge; Richard Allen Griffin, Circuit Judge and Sandra S. Beckwith, U.S. District Judge., SDO--[Edited 11/28/2012 by MMD]
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION
File Name: 12a1231n.06
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
MICHAEL L. STAHL,
Nov 28, 2012
DEBORAH S. HUNT, Clerk
ON APPEAL FROM THE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT
COURT FOR THE NORTHERN
DISTRICT OF OHIO
BEFORE: MARTIN and GRIFFIN, Circuit Judges; BECKWITH, District Judge.*
PER CURIAM. Michael L. Stahl challenges the constitutionality of his statutory mandatory
minimum sentence for distribution of child pornography.
Stahl pleaded guilty to an amended information charging him with distribution of child
pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2). Stahl’s total offense level was twenty-seven
following various enhancements and a reduction for the acceptance of responsibility. Stahl had zero
criminal history points, corresponding to a criminal history category of I. Stahl’s resulting advisory
sentencing guidelines range was seventy to eighty-seven months of imprisonment. Pursuant to 18
U.S.C. § 2252(b)(1), Stahl’s mandatory minimum term of imprisonment was five years, with a
maximum term of twenty years.
The Honorable Sandra S. Beckwith, Senior United States District Judge for the Southern
District of Ohio, sitting by designation.
United States v. Stahl
Among his objections to the presentence report, Stahl argued that the enhancements
constituted impermissible double counting of the same conduct and that a criminal history category
of I overstated his criminal history. In his sentencing memorandum, Stahl asserted that section
2252(b)(1) is unconstitutional as applied to him and requested a sentence below the statutory
mandatory minimum sentence of sixty months.
At sentencing, the district court overruled Stahl’s objections to the presentence report and
rejected his constitutional challenges to the statute. After considering Stahl’s arguments, and the
sentencing factors under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), the district court found that a downward variance from
the guidelines range was appropriate. The district court sentenced Stahl to the statutory mandatory
minimum of sixty months of imprisonment.
In this timely appeal, Stahl argues that the mandatory minimum sentence under section
2252(b)(1) is unconstitutional as applied to him. Stahl’s constitutional challenge to his sentence is
a question of law which we review de novo. See United States v. Hughes, 632 F.3d 956, 959 (6th
Cir.), cert. denied, 131 S. Ct. 2975 (2011).
Stahl contends that the mandatory minimum sentence under section 2252(b)(1) conflicts with
United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 253–54 (2005). Contrary to Stahl’s argument, “nothing in
Booker allows the court to negate the imposition of a mandatory minimum sentence.” United States
v. Franklin, 499 F.3d 578, 586 (6th Cir. 2007). According to Stahl, there is little difference between
his conduct and the offense of possession of child pornography. Yet, the difference in sentencing
is huge—a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum sentence of twenty years for
distribution versus no mandatory minimum sentence and a maximum sentence of ten years for
United States v. Stahl
possession. However, the distribution of child pornography—in Stahl’s case, sending nine emails
containing images of child pornography—involves different conduct and is a more serious offense
than mere possession, justifying the disparate sentencing. See United States v. Fink, 502 F.3d 585,
589 (6th Cir. 2007). Stahl maintains that the statutory mandatory minimum also conflicts with the
directive of section 3553(a) to “impose a sentence sufficient, but not greater than necessary,” to
comply with statutory sentencing goals. While we have “acknowledge[d] the tension with section
3553(a), . . . that very general statute cannot be understood to authorize courts to sentence below
minimums specifically prescribed by Congress.” United States v. Cecil, 615 F.3d 678, 695 (6th Cir.
2010), cert. denied, 131 S. Ct. 1525 (2011) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
In addition to his Sixth Amendment arguments, Stahl contends that the statutory mandatory
minimum eliminates the judge from the sentencing equation, usurping a core function of the judicial
branch in violation of the separation-of-powers doctrine. It is well established that “Congress . . .
has the power to fix the sentence for a federal crime, and the scope of judicial discretion with respect
to a sentence is subject to congressional control.” Mistretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361, 364
(1989) (internal citation omitted). Accordingly, “we have flatly rejected the claim that mandatory
minimums unconstitutionally violate separation-of-powers principles.” Cecil, 615 F.3d at 696
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Stahl claims that the sentencing inquiry, unencumbered by the mandatory minimum, calls
for a sentence far less than sixty months, asserting that the § 3553(a) factors support mitigation; that
his offense level was artificially inflated by gratuitous and duplicative enhancements; and that his
United States v. Stahl
criminal history was overstated. Because the district court was encumbered by the mandatory
minimum, we need not reach Stahl’s remaining arguments.
The district court’s judgment is affirmed.
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