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US v Heckman

1-11-2010 Pennsylvania:

US v Heckman
592 F.3d 400 (2010)

Arthur William Heckman was indicted and pled guilty to one count of transporting child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(1).1 He was sentenced to 180 months' imprisonment, followed by a lifetime term of supervised release. On appeal, Heckman challenges three "Special Conditions of Supervision" imposed by the District Court for the remainder of Heckman's life:
  • 1) an unconditional ban on Internet access;
  • 2) a requirement that he participate in a mental health program; and
  • 3) a restriction on any interaction with minors.

While we affirm the mental health condition, we vacate the other challenged conditions and remand for resentencing consistent with this opinion.

... ... ...

Cases involving child pornography are among the most troubling we encounter. The victims are innocent and defenseless, the materials illicit and timeless.16 Heckman emailed 18 images of children engaging in sexually explicit conduct to a stranger in an Internet chat room. This was only the latest offense by a lifelong sexual predator, and it was appropriate for the District Court to sentence him to 15 years' imprisonment and a lifetime term of supervised release.

Yet the Court's discretion in these matters (though justifiably broad) is not unlimited. When imposing special conditions of supervised release, it is limited to those conditions that "involve[] no greater deprivation of liberty than is reasonably necessary." 18 U.S.C. § 3583(d)(2). Furthermore, the Court may not delegate to a probation officer the authority to "decide the nature or extent of the punishment imposed upon a probationer." Pruden, 398 F.3d at 250. In vacating certain of the District Court's special conditions in this case, we do not mean to question the need for release supervision responsive to Heckman's specific offense and his lifetime of misdeeds. To do so, however, requires a balancing of considerations that affect not only this case, but those that follow.

For these reasons, we affirm the mental health condition imposed by the District Court as one of the conditions of supervised release. However, we vacate the special conditions pertaining to Internet access and interaction with minors. Thus we remand for resentencing consistent with this opinion.

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