Forfeiture of home and land was appropriate in child pornography distribution penalty | MassCops

Forfeiture of home and land was appropriate in child pornography distribution penalty

Discussion in 'Court Decisions' started by Gil, Jul 1, 2010.

  1. Gil

    Gil Founder of MassCops Staff Member

    Federal Appeal Court 2010 recent cases

    Forfeiture of home and land was appropriate in child pornography distribution penalty

    Hull and his wife owned 19 acres, improved with a large barn and a three-bedroom home. Hull used his home office equipped with a hard wire internet connection to send child pornography to several undercover officers in multiple states. Each officer posed as a mother with female children. Hull solicited the undercover officers to allow him to have sexual contact with their fictitious "daughters." Officers served a search warrant at Hull’s home and found 262 images of child pornography. Hull was convicted of two counts of distribution of child pornography and sentenced to prison. The district court judge described the sado-masochistic images seized from Hull's residence as "beyond the pale" and "worse than anything" the judge had ever seen. Because of Hull's solicitation to have sex with young girls and the nature of the child pornography, the prosecutor filed a claim for forfeiture of Hull's home and land.

    The court of appeals stated that the real property used in the offense (where Hull located his computer and sent his electronic communications) did not need to be "indispensable to the offense" to warrant forfeiture. The prosecution needed only to show a "substantial connection" between the property and the offense. The court noted, "Hull used his real property to commit or to promote the commission of the child pornography offenses. He set up a computer in a room in his house, connected to the Internet, and distributed child pornography from there. The evidence showed a substantial connection—not merely an incidental or fortuitous relationship—between the real property and the offenses. To be sure, use of the computer was necessary to commit the offenses, but the real property played a substantial role as well. The house enabled Hull to establish a hard-wired connection to the Internet, which allowed him to distribute the contraband. It also provided a secure place to store the images that he later distributed. Use of a computer in the privacy of the residence, rather than in a library, coffee shop, or senior center, made it easier for Hull to conceal his crimes from public scrutiny." The court held that forfeiture was not disproportionate to the offense. Hull’s equity in the property was $192,632, less than the maximum fine recommended by the Sentencing Guidelines of $200,000. Thus, Hull went to the big house and lost the little house. United States v. Hull, 606 F.3d 524 (8th Cir. 2010).

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