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United States v. Horton

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

October 21, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CHRISTOPHER MICHAEL HORTON, Defendant-Appellant

Argued October 9, 2014.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 3:13-cr-30042 -- David R. Herndon, Judge.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Alma Mae Summers, Attorney, Office of The United States Attorney, Criminal Division, Fairview Heights, IL.

For Christopher Michael Horton, Defendant - Appellant: Thomas C. Gabel, Attorney, Office of The Federal Public Defender, East St. Louis, IL.

Before BAUER, EASTERBROOK, and KANNE, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 583

Per Curiam.

Christopher Horton, a karate instructor who used his iPhone to film himself sexually molesting three of his young students, pleaded guilty to six counts of sexually exploiting a child. See 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a). Horton's guidelines range was life, subject to a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years on each count. See id. § 2251(e). The district court imposed a 90-year prison sentence, which Horton argues is substantively unreasonable. Because Horton has failed to rebut the presumption of reasonableness afforded to his within-guidelines sentence, we affirm.

During a 9-month period while Horton was employed at Three Tigers Karate in Belleville, Illinois, Horton created 37 videos depicting himself engaging in sexually explicit conduct with three of his male students (ages 6, 7, and 10), and another video showing himself trying to convince another student (age 7) to display his genitals. Horton created the videos in various places: his home, the karate studio, a public park, and the San Antonio home of one the victims.

Horton, then 20, was living with his mother in Highland, Illinois when, in early 2013, she noticed child pornography on his phone. She told her boyfriend, who reported Horton to the police on February 11. Later that day police visited Horton's home and spoke with his mother, who confirmed that she had seen an image on his phone of Horton performing oral sex on a 10-year-old boy. The police then went to the karate studio and arrested Horton. During a police interview, Horton admitted that he sexually abused three minor boys who attended the karate studio and used his phone to film the acts, which included oral sex.

The investigation revealed how Horton gained access to the victims outside of class and convinced them to engage in sexual activity. Horton succeeded in getting the victims alone by earning their parents' trust and offering private karate

Page 584

lessons, at which he molested the students in their own home or in the karate studio's back room while other students were in the main studio taking lessons. Horton convinced one of the victims to touch his, Horton's, privates by promising to buy him a Nintendo 3-DS. There were also text files on Horton's cell phone containing messages he had drafted instructing the boys on sex, masturbation, and orgasms; encouraging them to send him pictures of their penises; and giving them code words to use in text messages to avoid detection by their parents.

Horton entered an open plea of guilty to five counts of sexually exploiting a minor, see 18 U.S.C. ยง 2251(a), and one count of attempting to do ...


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