Fourth Circuit Affirms Convictions in Child Pornography Case

United States v. Miltier (No. 16-4729)

This case stems from a 2013 FBI investigation, during which images of child pornography were downloaded from an IP address allegedly assigned to Miltier. A search warrant was executed at Miltier’s home, and a forensic review of his laptop and a flash drive revealed child pornography. Both devices were found in Miltier’s bedroom. There was other evidence that Miltier had used both devices (usernames, email addresses, Miltier’s admission that he used the computer, photographs of Miltier on the flash drive).

During his trial, Miltier moved for a directed verdict, arguing (1) the government failed to produce evidence that he knowingly received or possessed child pornography, and (2) the government failed to produce evidence of the required interstate nexus which would trigger federal jurisdiction. Miltier’s motion was denied by the trial court. On appeal, the court affirms this ruling, rejecting Miltier’s arguments. The court recounts the above-noted evidence showing Miltier’s use of the computer in question, and holds that a “reasonable juror could have concluded that Miltier knowingly received and possessed child pornography.” Regarding the jurisdictional question, the court rejects Miltier’s argument, noting that there was evidence at trial that the images in question were downloaded from the internet, which would trigger federal jurisdiction.

Additionally, Miltier argues that the trial court erred in its jury instruction that authorized conviction based upon a finding that his computer moved in interstate commerce. The court holds that the movement of a computer in interstate commerce is sufficient to authorize conviction (as far as the interstate nexus requirement is concerned).

Lastly, the court rejects Miltier’s argument that the court’s above-noted instruction violated his Fifth Amendment rights in that it constituted an amendment to his indictment, violating his right to be indicted by the grand jury. The court characterizes the discrepancy in question as a “mere variance,” noting that Miltier did not attempt to argue that the variance surprised or prejudiced him.

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