United States v. James Jackson

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Sentencing
  • Date Filed: 10-11-2012
  • Case #: 11-30147
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam; Circuit Judge B. Fletcher, Circuit Judge Pregerson, and Senior District Judge Marshall
  • Full Text Opinion

A district court does not plainly err in applying the plain language of U.S.S.G. § 2G1.3(b)(3)(B), which provides for a use-of-computer enhancement, because a district court could reasonably find that the plain language of the Guideline is inconsistent with the Application Note that follows it.

James Jackson met a minor (“A.K.”), who was involved in prostitution and drug distribution, in Seattle, Washington. The two moved to Portland, Oregon to sell ecstacy. Jackson forced A.K. to prostitute herself, asking a conspirator to take photos of A.K. and post them on craigslist.com. Jackson was arrested for sex trafficking under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1591(a) and (b)(1). Jackson was charged with “knowing that force, fraud, and coercion would be used to cause [a minor] ‘A.K.’ to engage in commercial sex acts” and for financially benefitting from the venture. He entered a guilty plea for the sex trafficking count and the remaining five counts were dismissed. Jackson was sentenced to 480 months in jail, with an additional five years of supervised release. The district court applied a two-level enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 2G1.3(b)(3) for use of a computer. On appeal, Jackson claimed that the Application Note following § 2G1.3(b)(3) indicates that the enhancement would apply only if Jackson used the computer to communicate with A.K., which he did not do. The Court recognized that it had not yet resolved whether the plain language of § 2G1.3(b)(3)(B) conflicts with the Application Note, and looked at other circuits’ decisions in similar cases. However, because Jackson had not raised this issue in district court, the Court applied plain-error review. The plain-error test grants relief if there is “(1) error, (2) that is plain, and (3) affects substantial rights.” The Court concluded that “[i]n the absence of controlling authority stating otherwise, a district court could reasonably find that an inconsistency does exist and interpret the plain language of [§ 2G1.3(b)(3)(B)] to apply to the facts of this case.” AFFIRMED.

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