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United States v. Muchow

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

May 8, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Wesley A. Muchow, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland. No. 1:17-cr-00432-1-Christopher A. Boyko, District Judge.

          Christian J. Grostic, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant.

          Michael A. Sullivan, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellee.

          Before: COLE, Chief Judge; STRANCH and READLER, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          CHAD A. READLER, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         Defendant Wesley Muchow pled guilty to one count of receiving and distributing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. After weighing the parties' respective arguments at the sentencing hearing, the district court sentenced Muchow at the very bottom of the proposed United States Sentencing Guidelines range. We reject Muchow's position that his sentence is substantively unreasonable and AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In many respects, Wesley Muchow lived a life one could be proud of, and certainly not one that would catch the eye of federal prosecutors. He graduated from high school, was gainfully employed as a machine operator, and made a home in Bucyrus, a north central Ohio community located along the historic Lincoln Highway. Muchow had a close bond with his family, relying on their support during challenging times. And until this federal prosecution, his known criminal record reflected only a decades-old state-law misdemeanor for driving under the influence.

         Unfortunately, Muchow's life had a dark chapter, one revealed in 2017 when FBI agents executed a search warrant at his home. There, agents discovered 3, 616 images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, all stored on electronic devices, as well as 61 videos reflecting similarly explicit conduct.

         Muchow's misconduct was not an isolated incident. The volume of child pornography discovered in his home alone suggested as much. So too did the FBI's investigation. The search warrant was based upon findings from the prior November and December, when an undercover FBI agent used peer-to-peer file sharing programs to download remotely child pornography- both pictures and videos-from Muchow's computer. The search revealed over 30 files of child pornography. Muchow would later admit to "searching and downloading" child pornography for at least "the past ten years."

         In the months that followed the search, Muchow sought to reform his ways. As a first step, Muchow provided a signed statement to law enforcement officers admitting he had viewed child pornography. Later, he attended counseling sessions to seek treatment for his addiction. On top of that, he engaged in church, family, and work activities, and refrained from viewing illegal pornographic images.

         Muchow was indicted in October 2017 on one count of receiving and distributing depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2), and one count of possessing child pornography, 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B), including at least one image of a prepubescent minor or a minor under the age of 12. Ultimately, Muchow pled guilty to Count 1, and the government dismissed Count 2.

         The case moved ahead to sentencing. Neither party objected to the Presentence Report. The Guidelines range for Muchow's offense was calculated as 135 to 168 months in prison. Muchow argued for a 60-month sentence, the mandatory minimum. He based his request on his lack of criminal history, his educational and work history, and his cooperation with law enforcement. The government, on the other hand, argued for a sentence within the Guidelines range. Ultimately, the district court sentenced Muchow to 135 months, the very bottom end of the Guidelines range, with an additional five years of supervised release.

         II. ...


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