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United States v. Thompson

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 28, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Marcus D. Thompson, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued April 18, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 15-CR-30146 - Michael J. Reagan, Chief Judge.

          Before Easterbrook, Kanne, and Rovner, Circuit Judges.

          Kanne, Circuit Judge.

         In June 2015, a fifteen-year-old girl got into a heated argument with her father, causing her to run away from home with nothing but a bag full of clothes. She was distraught, insecure, and alone. At her lowest point, she planned to kill herself by jumping off of a bridge.

         Marcus Thompson found her on the streets of Madison, Illinois and decided to prey on her vulnerability. He asked her if she wanted to make some money as a model and promised to help her obtain modeling work. Being the naive and impressionable teenager that she was, she got into his truck and agreed to ride away with him.

         Unbeknownst to her, however, Thompson had different plans. He drove the girl to Farmington, Missouri to pick up his wife. He and his wife then stole a camper, and the three embarked on a six-week odyssey of sexual exploitation in which he sold the girl's sexual services to at least fifteen men across three states. Thompson himself had sex with the girl at least five times, knowing full well that she was a minor.

         Thompson's prostitution operation was sophisticated. He and his wife took numerous sexually suggestive pictures of the girl (including one nude picture) and posted them on Backpage.com-a website used for advertising commercial sex acts. When men responded to the advertisements, he would arrange for them to have sex with the girl in nearby hotels. He used a sliding fee scale, charging them $60 for 15 minutes, $100 for 30 minutes, $200 for an hour, and $800 for the day with the girl. And he allowed the men to take pictures and videos of her for an additional cost.

         Thompson also took steps to impede any attempts to rescue the girl. For instance, he hid the girl's face in the pictures he posted online so that no one would recognize her. And he told her to ask prospective customers if they were cops; to confirm that they were not cops, she would have them touch her vagina before she agreed to have sex with them.

         Thompson used fear to ensure the girl's complicity in his depraved enterprise. For example, he threatened the girl af- ter she refused to have anal sex with a customer. He also threatened her after she tried to escape.

         When Thompson was done with the girl, he sold her to a truck driver for $2000. The driver ultimately returned her to Thompson. Thompson then gave the girl to a different truck driver who drove her back to Illinois. There, she was able to contact her family and to obtain medical attention.

         Thompson was apprehended soon after. On September 8, 2015, a grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging him with sex trafficking of a child by force, fraud, or coercion and conspiracy to do the same in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a)(1)-(2), (b)(1)-(2) and § 1594(c). He pled guilty to these crimes without a plea deal.

         On October 12, 2016, the district court held a sentencing hearing. Throughout the hearing, the court referenced Thompson's presentence report, which recites the facts recounted above. Thompson admitted that he read the report with his attorney and certified that everything in it is true, correct, and accurate. The court then accepted the report and adopted its factual findings.

         The court used the report to calculate Thompson's guidelines range of 360 months to life imprisonment. The court then analyzed the § 3553 factors, recounting the heinous nature of Thompson's crime; Thompson's wanton disrespect for the law and the need for deterrence; the unspeakable physical and emotional damage to the victim, including the recurrent harm of having pornographic images of her forever circulated on the internet; the lack of meaningful mitigating factors; and Thompson's tepid acceptance of responsibility. The court ...


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