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United States v. Luck

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

March 31, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Lindell Luck, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: March 9, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee at Memphis. No. 2:13-cr-20303-Samuel H. Mays, Jr., District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Jeffrey B. Lazarus, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant.

          Kevin G. Ritz, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Jeffrey B. Lazarus, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant.

          Kevin G. Ritz, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee.

          Before: CLAY, SUTTON, and GRIFFIN, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          GRIFFIN, Circuit Judge.

          Charged with possession and distribution of child pornography, defendant Lindell Luck sought, unsuccessfully, to force the government to stipulate to the child-pornographic nature of the material recovered from his laptops. On appeal, he contends that the district court's refusal to force the stipulation violated the Supreme Court's decision in Old Chief v. United States, 519 U.S. 172 (1997), which enforced a similar stipulation for felon status in felon-in-possession cases. We disagree. Overlooked in defendant's presentation is an important caveat from Old Chief. "[O]ur holding, " Old Chief said, "is limited to cases involving proof of felon status, " id. at 183 n.7-an explicit limitation that this court has relied on in rejecting previous attempts to expand Old Chief. We do so again, and hold that, in light of the explicit limitation on Old Chief's holding, as well as the material distinctions between felon status and the nature of the images in child pornography cases, the district court did not err in refusing to force the government to stipulate. Finding no reversible error in defendant's remaining claims on appeal, we affirm.

         I.

         In August 2012, agents with the FBI Crimes Against Children Task Force discovered someone at 3425 Porters Gap Road in Halls, Tennessee, was using the Internet to download and share child pornography. They sought a search warrant for the home, which they executed on October 24, 2012. When they arrived, lead agents Aaron Thompson and Keith Melancon introduced themselves to the homeowner, Donnie Luck, and asked that he gather the other family members in the living room. There, agents told Donnie, his wife, Lynne Luck, and their twenty-one-year-old, live-in son (and defendant here), Lindell Luck, the reason for their visit. According to Thompson, they told the Lucks they were free to leave while they executed the search warrant, but that they would like to ask them some questions. Although Donnie and Lynne did not recall being told they could leave, everyone agreed to answer questions.

         Agents began with a round of general investigative questions until an answer to one question caught Thompson's attention: Lindell indicated that he had used something called a peer-to-peer file sharing network-the type of computer program that agents knew was used to download and share the pornographic material from 3425 Porters Gap Road. When agents heard this, they asked to speak with Lindell privately, offering to spare Lindell from having to answer embarrassing questions in front of his parents. Lindell and his parents agreed, and he and the agents departed to a nearby bedroom.

          Once everyone got settled, Lindell divulged that he had viewed child pornography when he was younger. He told agents that a friend downloaded files onto his laptop using a peer-to-peer network, and also gave him a thumb drive with child pornography. The laptop, however, was not in the house because it was being repaired for viruses. Agents asked if they could have a look at his online activity, and Lindell agreed. After their conversation ended, Lindell rejoined his mother and father in the living room.

         Meanwhile, the agents' search progressed to defendant's bedroom, where they found another laptop that the family failed to disclose during the initial round of questioning. They asked to speak with Lindell again, and he agreed. Confronted with the latest discovery, Lindell changed his story. He told agents that he had viewed child pornography as recently as a week and a half ago, describing the type of peer-to-peer network he used to do so. He also clarified that he put child pornography on the thumb drive, not his friend. Agents asked if he would like to put his latest statement in writing. He agreed, but not before agents advised him of his right to remain silent, that any statement he made was completely voluntary, and that he did not have to give a statement. He dictated the following statement to agent Thompson:

I, Lindell "Logan" Luck, am giving this statement freely and voluntarily without threats or force from Law Enforcement. I have been advised of my right to refuse such statement and remain silent. I have requested Special Agent Thompson to write this statement as I tell it in my words.
I began looking at child pornograph [sic] when I was younger with a friend, Colton, and it grew into a habit. I do not get sexual gratification from it. I do it to relieve stress because it gives me a sense of control in my life. I want to stop but I've never been able to stop on my own from looking at it. I'm sorry for putting everyone though what I've put them through - my family.

         After reviewing Thompson's transcription for accuracy, Lindell signed the statement. The search ended a short while later.

         According to Lindell, he has no memory of anything that occurred during the search, a consequence, he says, of the medications he was taking that "pretty much make [him] turn into a zombie anywhere between an hour and a half to two hours" after he wakes up.

          The fruits of the search resulted in a three-count indictment against Lindell for distributing and possessing child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2), (a)(4)(B). In the lead up to trial, the parties filed three motions that are at issue in this appeal.

         First, defendant filed a motion to suppress the statements he gave to agents, contending that they were the product of "custodial interrogation" without the required Miranda warnings. He alternatively argued that the statements were involuntary under the Due Process Clause. The ...


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