Submitted: September 27, 2019
from United States District Court for the Southern District
of Iowa - Council Bluffs
LOKEN, COLLOTON, and KOBES, Circuit Judges.
convicted Jamin C. Fletcher of receiving and distributing
child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§
2252(a)(2) and (b)(1). The district courtsentenced Fletcher
to concurrent terms of 108 months imprisonment followed by
ten years of supervised release. Fletcher appeals, arguing
the district court erred in giving the jury a willful
blindness instruction, the evidence was insufficient to
convict, and his sentence is substantively unreasonable. We
affirm. Because the jury instruction issue turns on the
evidence presented at trial, we will first address
Fletcher's challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence.
Sufficiency of the Evidence.
indictment charged Fletcher with four offenses, advertising
child pornography on BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file-sharing
network, and distributing, receiving, and possessing child
pornography. At trial, the government introduced documentary
evidence, digital images and videos, and the testimony of
three witnesses: FBI Special Agent Robert Blackmore, Iowa
Department of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Robert
Larsen, and FBI forensic examiner Jordan Warnock. The jury
acquitted Fletcher of the most serious offense, advertising
child pornography. It convicted him of the distributing and
receiving offenses. As instructed, it did not return a
verdict on the lesser included possession offense. See
United States v. Smith, 910 F.3d 1047, 1053-54 (8th Cir.
Agent Blackmore testified that a computer user interested in
BitTorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing first downloads a
BitTorrent file-sharing program. This creates a
"download or shared folder" on the user's
computer. The download/shared folder both receives downloads
and shares files. The user chooses and downloads into the
BitTorrent program a "Torrent file" that contains
desired content. The program finds and connects with other
computers on the BitTorrent network that are sharing the
desired content and brings different "pieces" of
the file from multiple other users to the user's
download/shared folder. A piece sitting in the
download/shared folder "is available to be shared out
back across the internet for others who are interested in the
same content." Blackmore explained that the BitTorrent
user can transfer pieces from the download/shared folder to
other devices and folders.
September 28 and 29, 2016, using investigative software to
search the BitTorrent network for digital images and videos,
Blackmore discovered a download/shared folder sharing
multiple files having unique "hash values" (digital
fingerprints) of known or suspected child pornography.
Examining the contents of this BitTorrent folder, Blackmore
found several images of child pornography from the Lolita
Series and a child pornography video. He downloaded the
Lolita Series images and video directly from the
download/shared folder; they were admitted into evidence at
trial. Blackmore also determined that this folder had shared
numerous files with hash values of known and suspected child
pornography within the previous 180 days. The government
introduced, without objection, a screen shot Blackmore took
after completing his downloads showing fourteen hash values
downloaded almost one hundred times during that period.
cross examination, Blackmore admitted his search did not
disclose whether the child pornography files he downloaded
had been viewed by any other BitTorrent user. But, he
explained, installing the BitTorrent program sets up a
download/shared folder the contents of which can be viewed by
others on the BitTorrent network, unless the user
affirmatively changes this default setting. Like other
peer-to-peer file sharing programs, the program instructions
tell the user how to accept the default or change the
settings so that the program's contents cannot be
accessed by other BitTorrent users. See United States v.
Shaffer, 472 F.3d 1219, 1221-22 (10th Cir. 2007)
(explaining the Kazaa peer-to-peer file sharing program).
downloading the Lolita Series images and the video, Agent
Blackmore traced the IP address to Fletcher's home in
Council Bluffs, Iowa. Special Agent Larsen executed a warrant
search of Fletcher's residence on April 12, 2017. The
search team seized three devices -- a desktop computer, a
laptop computer, and Fletcher's smartphone. After Larsen
told Fletcher he was not under arrest and was free to leave,
Fletcher agreed to a recorded forty-five minute interview.
The recorded interview was played at trial, and a transcript
admitted into evidence.
interview, Fletcher said he knew what peer-to-peer file
sharing was and remembered using BitTorrent "to download
movies and then clean them." Fletcher said he ran a
program called "PeerBlock" when using BitTorrent
"so that people won't go into your computer"
and conclude he was stealing movies. He also used BitTorrent
to search for pornography:
I would get a file and then it would show that person's
collection. And then if there was somethin' that looked
interesting I would click on it.
admitted he would "run across" child pornography
while looking for adult pornography. Larsen asked how many
times Fletcher ...