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United States v. Vinton

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

January 2, 2020

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
Antonio Vinton, Jr., Defendant-Appellee

          Argued: October 16, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit. No. 2:18-cr-20553-1-Marianne O. Battani, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Sheldon N. Light, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Jonathan Epstein, FEDERAL COMMUNITY DEFENDER, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Sheldon N. Light, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Jonathan Epstein, Laura Danielle Mazor, FEDERAL COMMUNITY DEFENDER, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellee.

          Before: MOORE, McKEAGUE, and LARSEN, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          Mc KEAGUE, Circuit Judge.

         Antonio Vinton was indicted for attempting to use a facility of interstate commerce to knowingly persuade, induce, entice, or coerce a minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b). The district court dismissed the indictment under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12, concluding that Vinton's conduct did not fit the elements of the crime as a matter of law, because a reasonable juror could not find beyond a reasonable doubt that he had the requisite intent to persuade or entice a minor. Because we find that the government could prove that Vinton intended to persuade or entice a minor to assent to unlawful sexual activity, we REVERSE the judgment of the district court and REMAND for trial.

         I

         This case comes to us in an unusual posture. The district court dismissed the indictment before trial based on the insufficiency of the government's evidence. The government argues that this was procedurally and substantively improper. Vinton disagrees.

         The idea of a motion to dismiss first came up at Vinton's detention hearing. Amidst arguments about whether the court should grant bond, the defense also argued that "there was a mistake of law at the initial bond hearing" and that "this case [was] not properly pled under the statute." The government disagreed with the defense's interpretation of the law, saying that Vinton was properly charged under the statute, but it also suggested that "if [defense counsel] believes that the law is different, th[en] . . . he could bring a motion to dismiss before your Honor and we can set forth the facts that we believe we can prove at trial."

         Vinton did just that. He filed a motion to dismiss his indictment under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b). But Vinton's primary argument was not based on an error on the face of the indictment or a mistake of law. Instead, Vinton argued that the indictment "fail[ed] to state an offense" because there was "insufficient evidence" that Vinton had the "requisite intent to solicit a minor."[1] Vinton stipulated to the evidence the government had put forward in the criminal complaint and its filings before the district court, and he argued that it wasn't enough to show an intent to persuade or entice a minor. The government replied to Vinton's motion, contending that it was improper for the district court to weigh the sufficiency of the evidence before trial, as intent is a question of fact that is reserved for the jury. Further, it argued ...


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