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United States v. Shannon

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

February 18, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RALPH SHANNON, Defendant-Appellant

Argued March 1, 2013.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. No. 06 CR 179 -- Barbara B. Crabb, Judge.

For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee: Julie Suzanne Pfluger, Attorney, Laura A. Przybylinski Finn, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Madison, WI.

For RALPH SHANNON, Defendant - Appellant: Johanna M. Christiansen, Attorney, Jonathan E. Hawley, Federal Public Defender, Andrew J. McGowan, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Peoria, IL.

Before ROVNER, WILLIAMS, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 497

Williams, Circuit Judge.

While on supervised release for possessing child pornography, Ralph Shannon violated the conditions of his release by attaching a web camera to his computer without prior permission. He also viewed several websites involving sexually explicit images, purportedly of teenage girls. Those actions led the district court to revoke Shannon's supervised release despite Shannon's contention that the websites contained disclaimers that the sites did not actually depict any minors. In this appeal, Shannon contests the district court's imposition of a special condition for his life term of supervised release: a ban on the possession of any sexually explicit material. This ban was not restricted to material involving minors. Nor was it limited to visual depictions. And it was not discussed

Page 498

before or during the hearing, by anyone including the judge, before the judge imposed it. In light of the lack of findings or explanation for the lifetime ban on the possession of all sexually explicit material, we vacate the condition and remand this case to the district court for further proceedings.

I. BACKGROUND

Ralph Shannon pled guilty to one count of possessing child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4). He received a sentence of forty-six months' imprisonment followed by a lifetime of supervised release. On August 20, 2010, after he completed his prison sentence, Shannon began his supervised release.

About thirteen months later, Shannon's probation officer filed a petition with the district court alleging that Shannon violated conditions of his supervised release. Special Condition No. 2 required him to notify his probation officer in advance of the use of any device connected to his computer, and the petition alleged that Shannon violated this condition by having a web camera connected to his computer without prior permission. The petition also alleged that Shannon violated Special Condition No. 3's prohibition on the possession of any materials depicting child pornography when Shannon accessed several websites, including those with " teengal" and " teenplanet" in their domain names.

A probation revocation hearing took place before the district court. The government notified the court that it would proceed only with the violation alleging the unauthorized possession of a web camera because it could not determine the exact ages of the persons in the websites Shannon viewed. Shannon admitted he had possessed a web camera without ...


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