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United States v. Coopman

April 19, 2010


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. No. 2:07-cr-196-Rudy Lozano, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kanne, Circuit Judge.


Before KANNE, WOOD, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

Brad Coopman was charged with possession of child pornography and receipt of child pornography. He pled guilty to the receipt charge with-out the benefit of a plea agreement. At the outset of Coopman's sentencing hearing, the district court adopted the factual findings in the pre-sentence investigation report (PSR) without objection from the parties. After the government presented its witness, Coopman offered expert witness testimony in an effort to mitigate his sentence. At the conclusion of Coopman's evidence, the district court calculated a sentencing range of 151 to 188 months' imprisonment. The court then sentenced Coopman to 151 months' incarceration and 10 years' supervised release.

Coopman now challenges his sentence by alleging that the district court improperly placed presumptive weight on the guidelines, failed to consider non-frivolous arguments, and misapplied 18 U.S.C. § 3553. Coopman also argues that the district court imposed an unreasonable sentence. We affirm.

I. Background

Because the issues raised in this case stem from Coopman's sentencing hearing, we need not explain in detail the circumstances surrounding his conviction. It is sufficient to note that in 2007 the Indiana State Police discovered that Coopman was using a peer-to-peer internet network to share three child pornography videos. After seizing his computer, the police discovered approximately thirty-five additional child pornography videos saved on his hard drive. This conduct formed the basis for Coopman's indictment and guilty plea.

In early March 2009, Coopman filed two sentencing memoranda with the district court. In one memorandum, Coopman addressed a perceived lack of empirical evidence supporting sentences derived from U.S.S.G. § 2G2.2 and urged the court to give the guideline little weight in sentencing him. In the second memorandum, Coopman addressed the § 3553(a) sentencing factors. In support of his sentencing argument, Coopman included a letter on his own behalf, letters from his family, grades for a college-level course he completed while in detention, and a vitae for his psychologist, William Hillman. Coopman urged the court to adopt the mandatory minimum sentence-sixty months' imprisonment-as required by 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2).

A few days later, Coopman appeared for sentencing. As there were no objections to the PSR, the district court adopted the factual statements in the report as its findings of fact. It then heard witnesses in consideration of the § 3553(a) factors. The government first presented its witness, Lafayette Police Officer Paul Huff, who had examined Coopman's home computer and found the child pornography videos on his hard drive. Officer Huff also testified regarding an earlier, unrelated incident involving Coopman, during which a Purdue University employee reported discovery of pornography websites accessed from a campus computer; most of the websites accessed had been adult pornography sites, but a few had been identified as child pornography sites. Coopman was later discovered to be the person who initiated the searches, although admittedly, the investigation could only trace Coopman's involvement to search terms that he deliberately typed; it could not differentiate between pop-ups and sites that Coopman actively sought. Nonetheless, testimony demonstrated that some of the search terms attributable directly to Coopman clearly sought access to child pornography.

At the close of the government's presentation, Coopman presented his own witness, Dr. Hillman, a psychosexual evaluative expert. Significantly, Dr. Hillman's expertise is in the area of sexually violent offenders, not in child pornography or internet pornography. Dr. Hillman testified that it was his belief that Coopman was unlikely to exhibit sexual predatory behavior, and that with therapy, Coopman's pornography addiction could be abated substantially. In addition to his witness, Coopman also submitted exhibits proving that while in pre-trial custody he had completed several rehabilitation programs, including "Inside-Out Dad" and substance abuse treatment. He also proffered evidence of his training in electrical wiring with the Stafford Career Institute, which qualified him as a commercial, residential, and industrial electrician. At the close of the parties' submissions, the district court imposed a sentence of 151 months' imprisonment followed by 10 years' supervised release. Coopman appealed.

II. Analysis

Coopman alleges that the district court made substantial procedural and substantive errors and that the sentence it imposed is unreasonable. We address each argument in turn.

A. Procedural and Substantive Errors

Whether a district court followed proper procedures in imposing a sentence is a question of law that we review de novo. United States v. Smith, 562 F.3d 866, 872 (7th Cir. 2009). In this case, Coopman alleges three procedural ...

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