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United States v. Coppock

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 2, 2014

United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
James N. Coppock, Defendant - Appellant

Argued January 15, 2014

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Nebraska - Omaha.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Michael P. Norris, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Nebraska, Omaha, NE.

James N. Coppock, Defendant - Appellant, Pro se, Omaha, NE.

For James N. Coppock, Defendant - Appellant: Richard Haile McWilliams, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Federal Public Defender's Office, Omaha, NE.

Before WOLLMAN, COLLOTON, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 922

COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.

James Coppock, a sex offender subject to the requirements of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (" SORNA" ), entered a conditional guilty plea to a charge of failing to register and update his sex offender registration with Nebraska officials, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a). He appeals the district court's[1] denial of his motion to dismiss the indictment, arguing that his conviction under § 2250(a) is unconstitutional. Coppock argues principally that Congress lacked authority under Article I of the Constitution to impose SORNA's registration requirement on him. In light of the Supreme Court's recent decisions in United States v. Comstock, 560 U.S. 126, 130 S.Ct. 1949, 176 L.Ed.2d 878 (2010), and United States v. Kebodeaux, 133 S.Ct. 2496, 186 L.Ed.2d 540 (2013), concerning the Necessary and Proper Clause of Article I, we conclude that Congress acted within its power. We therefore affirm the judgment.

I.

Coppock was convicted in 1990 by a military court of carnal knowledge and kidnaping of a minor. In February 1997, Coppock was released on military parole and came under the supervision of the United States Probation Office in the District of Nebraska until his parole expired in March 2009. In November 2009, Coppock signed an acknowledgment of his obligations to register as a sex offender and to keep that registration up to date. And in December 2009, Coppock filed a form with the State of Nebraska's sex offender registry to notify the State that he was moving from Blair, Nebraska, to Pasay City, Philippines.

Subsequent investigation by law enforcement officials revealed that Coppock never traveled to the Philippines but rather moved to Omaha, Nebraska, and worked for several employers, without notifying the State of Nebraska of these events. Coppock was arrested on May 7, 2012, and a grand jury charged him on May 22, 2012, with knowingly failing to register and update his sex offender registration with Nebraska authorities as required by SORNA. See 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a).

SORNA, enacted in July 2006, " requires those convicted of certain sex crimes to provide state governments with (and to update) information, such as names and current addresses, for inclusion on state and federal sex offender registries." Reynolds v. United States, 132 S.Ct. 975, 978, 181 L.Ed.2d 935 (2012); see 42 U.S.C. § 16913. Congress delegated to the Attorney General the authority to determine whether and to what extent SORNA's requirements apply to sex offenders who, like Coppock, were convicted of their underlying sex crimes before SORNA's enactment. 42 U.S.C. § 16913(d). The Attorney General, exercising that authority, declared in 2007 that SORNA did apply to such offenders. See Reynolds, 132 S.Ct. at 979.

Coppock moved to dismiss the indictment, raising several constitutional challenges to the application of SORNA's registration requirements. Adopting the findings and recommendation of a magistrate judge, the district court denied the motion, and Coppock entered a conditional guilty plea. Coppock appeals the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss, and we ...


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