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United States of America v. Rondale Lee Chapman

September 20, 2012


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 4:11-cr-40031--J. Phil Gilbert, Judge.

Per curiam.

ARGUED JUNE 12, 2012

Before BAUER, KANNE, and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

Rondale Chapman pleaded guilty to producing child pornography, a crime punishable by no less than 15 years in prison. See 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a), (e). For several years Chapman, now 46, lured kids as young as 12 to his home with marijuana and alcohol and filmed them, usually through "peepholes," engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Chapman faced a guidelines range of life imprisonment and was sentenced to a total of 40 years.

On appeal he contends that the district court did not fully evaluate his arguments in mitigation, and also failed to adequately explain its choice of sentence. On the surface the first of these contentions seems plausible, but only because Chapman exaggerates the evidence presented at sentencing about his background. When we look beyond his embellishment, it becomes clear that the "mitigating" factors he cites lacked evidentiary founda- tion or amounted to "stock" arguments that required no response from the judge. For that reason we affirm Chapman's sentence.


Since at least 2005, Chapman had been plying minors with marijuana and alcohol at his home in southern Illinois. Some teens engaged in sexual activity in the bathroom. Chapman used a camcorder to secretly film them through peepholes or when they left the bathroom door slightly ajar. He also filmed "C.S." in a bedroom when C.S. was 12 or 13. That victim, the son of a friend, found a nude photo of himself on Chapman's cell phone when he was 16. This discovery, along with a rumor about Chapman secretly filming bathroom occupants, prompted C.S. and another youth to sneak into Chap- man's house in January 2011 and search for illicit videos.

C.S. located and removed videotapes depicting several boys, including a nephew filmed at age 13, urinating or masturbating in the bathroom. Also on those tapes are the images taken of C.S. in the bedroom three or four years earlier; C.S. could not recall the incidents, but in different sequences Chapman's hand can be seen fondling C.S.'s penis or his voice can be heard coaching

C.S. to masturbate for the camera. The tapes were given to the police, and a search warrant executed at Chapman's home turned up others. The additional tapes include multiple clips of teens urinating, masturbating, and engaging in intercourse and oral sex. Among those clips are Chapman exposing his sleeping nephew's penis on a camping trip, and the nephew and a girl engaging in oral sex and intercourse in the bathroom when both were 15 or 16.

A probation officer calculated a guidelines imprisonment range of life based on a total offense level of 43 and Cate- gory I criminal history. The presentence report includes three pages about Chapman's personal and family history, his mental and emotional health, and his history of drug use. This information came from Chapman or family members; none is from social-services agencies or mental-health professionals. Except for Chapman's report of suffering previously undisclosed sexual abuse as a child, the probation officer's account is unremarkable:

Rondale Lee Chapman, age 46, was born on September 19, 1965, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He was one of two children born to Hershel Chap- man and Kathryn (nee Richardson) Starr. He indicated he has been a lifelong resident of Union County, Illinois, with the exception of living in Black Oak, Indiana, for less than a year at approxi- mately five years of age. . .

The defendant's father . . . is approximately age 68 . . . . The defendant's mother . . . died in February 2010 after suffering from bone cancer. . . [P]rior to his mother's illness, she worked as a restaurant waitress.

The defendant has one full sibling. . . . The defendant also has four half siblings. . . [His maternal half-sister] has visited Chapman since his incarceration in the instant offense.

When asked about his childhood, the defendant advised that his parents divorced when he was four or five years of age. He recalled posi- tive memories of his parents together. Following their divorce, Chapman . . . lived with his mother. He stated he spent approximately every other weekend with his father; however, it was some- times less often.

The defendant indicated he was raised in "the woods in [the Village of] Dongola." His mother worked frequently to make sure that the de- fendant and his siblings had the basic necessities. He acknowledged that finances were a struggle for the family. The defendant advised that he was born with a medical condition resulting in poor bone development. He explained that his bones did not grow fast enough for his body's development. He stated he was in ...

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