2nd Circuit Dissent Protests 30-Year Sentence for 'Sexting,' Claims Majority Incited Its Readers

A federal appeals court has affirmed a 30-year sentence for a former hockey coach accused of child pornography for persuading a teen girl he coached to send him sexual photos.

The dissent argued the majority went overboard in its efforts to persuade its readers that the sentence was justified.

The coach, Todd Broxmeyer, was accused of requesting the images from the 17-year-old girl, and then sharing them with another girl in a quest to obtain more pornographic images. With sentencing enhancements, federal sentencing guidelines called for a life term, automatically reduced to a statutory maximum of 30 years, the New York Law Journal reports.

The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the sentence in a 2-1 decision (PDF). The majority said the dissent “stubbornly ignored” the principle that under the sentencing guidelines, an offense includes all conduct relevant to the crime. The court said evidence showed Broxmeyer had induced a number of teen athletes to take pornographic photographs and he maintained a collection of the photos. It also cited evidence of a pattern of sexual abuse of teens.

Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs dissented, noting that the 17-year-old girl was the age of consent in New York, though the federal child pornography statute classified her as a minor. “My conclusion is that it is error to impose a 30-year sentence for an offense that amounts to attempted sexting,” he said. He argued the 15-year minimum was high enough.

“Something needs to be re-thought when in a case like this, the guidelines calculation yields a life sentence,” Jacobs wrote. “That is the sentence imposed on Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed people, and ate them.”

Jacobs also criticized the majority for its lengthy accounting of Broxmeyer’s alleged sexual activities with teen athletes. “My objection is this: the offense of federal conviction has become just a peg on which to hang a comprehensive moral accounting,” Jacobs wrote. The majority opinion “primes and incites the reader, who might otherwise focus on the offense of conviction, and the fact that it amounts to a single act of attempted sexting,” he said.

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