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United States v. Manning

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

January 3, 2014

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
Michael MANNING, Defendant-Appellant.

Submitted: Sept. 27, 2013.

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Kenneth Rader Schwartz, Clayton, MO, for appellant.

Tiffany Gulley Becker, AUSA, Saint Louis, MO, for appellee.

Before MURPHY, MELLOY, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

MELLOY, Circuit Judge.

A jury convicted Michael Manning of one count of receipt of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยงยง 2252A(a)(2) and (a)(5)(B), respectively. The district court [1] sentenced him to the statutory maximum for each offense: 240 months for receipt and 120 months for possession. The court ordered the sentences to run consecutively, resulting in a total prison term of 360 months. The court also imposed a lifetime term of supervised release.

Manning presents several arguments on appeal. First, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence at trial, claiming the government failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knowingly possessed or received child pornography. Second, he contends the district court erred in admitting online conversations he had with other persons discussing the exchange of child pornography. Third, he argues his convictions for both receipt and possession violate his Fifth Amendment right to be free from double jeopardy. Fourth, Manning alleges the ultimate sentence the district court imposed was substantively unreasonable. We affirm.

I. Background

We discuss the facts of this case " ‘ in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict.’ " United States v. Worthey, 716 F.3d 1107, 1109 (8th Cir.2013) (quoting United States v. Tremusini, 688 F.3d 547, 550 n. 2 (8th Cir.2012)).

In July 2010, Missouri law enforcement officers used an online " peer-to-peer" file-sharing program to download three images and one video of child pornography from an Internet Protocol (" IP" ) address in Sullivan, Missouri. The IP address originated from an account belonging to Michael Manning. Law enforcement subsequently executed a search warrant at Manning's residence on September 25, 2010. Manning was the only person at the home when officers arrived, and he denied downloading or having child pornography in his possession. Manning admitted during the search that he owned a laptop, that it was

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password-protected, that his login username to access the computer was " mem659," and that he used a secured internet connection. He suggested in response to questioning that three of his friends could have accessed his computer and downloaded the images. Despite going through a contentious divorce with his wife at the time, Manning did not suggest to anyone during the search that she or someone she knew may have been responsible for putting the child pornography on his computer.

The search of Manning's residence recovered, among other things, three compact discs and a laptop computer. Initially, the evidence log for the search recorded only two discs found in separate plastic cases. An officer involved with the investigation testified at trial that a third disc (the " Memorex disc" ) was located behind another disc in one of the plastic cases. Before leaving Manning's home, one of the officers sealed the plastic cases in an envelope and placed them in the officer's locked office. When the envelope was subsequently transferred to a forensics lab and unsealed to investigate the discs' contents, the forensics examiner found the Memorex disc. The Memorex disc contained 14 videos of child pornography and was added to the inventory list of items seized from Manning's home. The detective who conducted the forensics examination did not find any indication that the contents of the Memorex disc had been altered after the time of the search.

Law enforcement found 1,029 images and 49 video files on the laptop, all depicting child pornography. In addition, an analysis of the laptop revealed several online chat conversations conducted on the laptop by a person employing the usernames " boost_virgin" and " mem659." During these conversations, the person operating under username " boost_virgin" said at various times that he was 31 years old, from Missouri, five feet eight inches tall, and the father of two sons who were 6 and 10 years old. Based on this identifying information and the fact that the chats were conducted by a person using Manning's laptop, law enforcement determined it was Manning, operating under the user names " boost_virgin" and " mem659," who engaged in these chats with other unknown individuals from the internet.

The chat conversations contained prodigious amounts of incriminating information against Manning. Manning frequently discussed with other internet users the different " types" of child pornography he was seeking to download and his enjoyment of child pornography in general. The online chats also discussed Manning's sexual abuse of his 6 and 10 year old sons. The sons were interviewed by social services and initially denied any sexual abuse by their father. The younger son was later re-interviewed and disclosed that Manning sexually abused him on multiple occasions.

At trial, the jury saw samples of the images and videos depicting child pornography recovered from the laptop and Memorex disc. The jury also saw several portions of the online chat conversations, but the district court granted Manning's pretrial motion in limine to exclude sections of the chats detailing Manning's abuse of his children. Manning objected to the admission of any of the chat conversations, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to establish that he was one of the participants in the chats and that they therefore constituted inadmissible hearsay. Manning separately challenged ...


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