4th Circuit Vacates Sentence Reduction in Child Porn Case - U.S. Fourth Circuit
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4th Circuit Vacates Sentence Reduction in Child Porn Case

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a sentence and remanded the case for further proceedings where the district court reduced a sentence from ninety-six months to one day.

The case involved defendant James Clawson, charged with being a moderator of a child pornography website. He cooperated with the government and pleaded guilty to charges of distributing child pornography and at the time of his plea, it became known that he suffered from ADHD and depression, requiring certain medication daily.

Now, under Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 35(b), the motion could have been made to reduce his sentence, for providing substantial assistance to the government.

During the sentencing negotiations, it became known to Clawson that he would not be allowed his medication in the prison, as it was not an allowed substance under Board of Prison guidelines.

The district court sided with Clawson in computing the terms of his sentence, reducing it greatly as a result of the non-cooperation by the Board of Prisons in allowing him the prescribed medication.

The appeal before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals addressed the issue of whether a motion for reduction under Rule 35(b) could be granted based on something other than substantial assistance to the government, namely, the non-cooperation of the Board of Prisons.

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(b)(1) allows the court, upon the government's timely motion, to "reduce a sentence if the defendant, after sentencing, provided substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person."

According to the court's opinion, the rule, in its plain text, provides no other factors under which a 35(b) motion should be considered, aside from providing substantial assistance to the government.

Clawson also alleged that despite Rule 35(b), the incarceration would violate his Eighth Amendment rights and subject him to cruel and unusual punishment.

Given the fact, however, that the BOP was willing to provide Clawson with other medications to treat his condition, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that there was no Eighth Amendment violation.

Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the judgment, remanded it for further proceedings and ordered that it be reassigned to a new judge on remand.

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