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Fifth Circuit Vacates Sex Offender Supervised Release Conditions

by Mark Wilson

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated several sex offender supervised release conditions, finding that the lower court abused its discretion in imposing the conditions.

In 1998, Chanda Huor, 16, pleaded guilty to raping a four-year-old girl. He was sentenced to several years in prison and required to register as a sex offender for life.

After his 2005 release, Huor initially registered, but was eventually convicted of failing to register several times. In early 2013, Huor updated his registration with the Virginia State Police, but he did not update his registration when he moved to San Antonio, Texas in March, 2013.

A Virginia arrest warrant was issued, and the United States Marshals eventually tracked Huor to Texas, where he’d lived for almost one year with his girlfriend, Crystal Quesada and her eight-year-old son. Quesada knew Huor as Kevin Thom.

By the time marshals contacted Quesada, Huor had moved in with another girlfriend, Rosemary Valdez, and her two young daughters. Valdez also knew Huor as Thom and was not aware that he was a convicted sex offender.

Huor was arrested at Valdez’s residence and charged with failing to register under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, in violation of 18 USC § 2250(a). He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 24 months in prison and 10-year supervised release term.

Supervised release conditions must be reasonably related to one of four factors enumerated in 18 USC § 3553(a). They also must be narrowly tailored so they do not involve a “greater deprivation of liberty than is reasonably necessary” to achieve the statutory goals. Finally, the sentencing court has an obligation to explain why each special condition has been imposed.

The sentencing court acknowledged that Huor had not committed any sex offenses since 1998 and had shown no propensity to do so “in at least the last ten years.” The court, nevertheless, imposed conditions: requiring him to undergo sex offender treatment; prohibiting him from purchasing, possessing or using sexually stimulating materials; requiring him to comply with “all other lifestyle restrictions ... imposed by the therapist”; and prohibiting him from “residing or going to places” frequented by minors without his probation officer’s permission.

The Fifth Circuit vacated all but the treatment condition. It first found that the sentencing court’s reasons for imposing the sexually stimulating materials ban “bears an inadequate relationship to the” § 3553(a)(1) and (2) factors. It also held that the condition was not narrowly tailored to Huor or supported by the record.

Noting that the lower court imposed the ban because Huor “raped a four-year-old” child, the Fifth Circuit followed United States v. Salazar, 743 F.3d 445 (5th Cir. 2014), in holding “that ‘singular and now-remote sexual offense’ does not justify a 10-year sexually stimulating materials condition.”

The appellate court also vacated the condition requiring Huor to “follow all other lifestyle restrictions or treatment requirements imposed by the therapist.” It determined that that condition improperly delegated the sentencing court’s authority to establish and enforce terms of Huor’s supervised release to a therapist. 

The Court finally found that the prohibition on “residing or going places” frequented by minors was not orally announced at sentencing. “Defendants have a constitutional right to be present at their sentencing,” the Court explained. “The government concedes that the judgment must be reformed to conform to the oral sentence.”

The Fifth Circuit affirmed the treatment condition but vacated all other conditions. It remanded for resentencing. See: United States v. Huor, 852 F.3d 392 (5thCir. 2017). 

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