Eleventh Circuit Rejects Fairness and Cruelty Challenges to Enticement Sentence – U.S. v. Lecuyer

December 30, 2013 by David S. Seltzer

In the “court of public opinion,” there’s an argument to be made that very long sentences for certain cyber crimes are unreasonable and unfair. Crimes that involve no live children—such as child pornography possession and attempting to entice a “minor” who was really an adult police officer—often carry longer sentences than serious crimes of violence. Unfortunately for defendants, arguments against them often fail when they get to the appellate level. That was the case for Colt Lecuyer, the defendant in U.S. v. Lecuyer. Lecuyer was convicted of attempting to entice a minor to have sex and sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison. He argued that the sentence was unconstitutional in several ways, including cruel and unusual punishment and violations of his due process rights. The Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the sentence.

The opinion did not give the details of Lecuyer’s offense and arrest, except to say that the minor in question was 13 (or believed by Lecuyer to be 13). He was sentenced on one count of attempting to entice a minor to have sex. His appeal argued first that the 10-year sentence is cruel and unusual, in violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition on such sentences. He next argued that the mandatory minimum sentence violates the Constitution’s separation of powers doctrine, because it does not permit the judicial discretion required by the criminal code. Finally, he argued that the mandatory minimum violates his substantive due process rights by depriving the sentencing court of a chance to meaningfully consider factors that might mitigate the sentence.

The Eleventh Circuit accepted none of these arguments. An Eighth Amendment challenge requires a very high bar, the court noted: the challenger must show that the sentence is grossly disproportionate to the crime. Generally speaking, a sentence within statutory limits is constitutional; the U.S. Supreme Court has found only one adult sentence unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. In this case, the court said, Lecuyer didn’t show adequate evidence that a 10-year sentence is grossly disproportionate to the crime of attempting to entice a minor to have sex. On the separation of powers question, the Eleventh said it has consistently rejected such arguments against mandatory minimum sentences. Because that precedent is binding, the argument is foreclosed. And the court rejected Lecuyer’s Fifth Amendment argument, saying Lecuyer has failed to show that the mandatory minimum statute doesn’t have a rational basis. It affirmed the sentence.

It’s disappointing but not surprising that precedent forecloses these arguments against mandatory minimum sentences. Defendants (and judges) have been raising arguments against mandatory minimums for decades, arguing that they take away judges’ discretion and unnecessarily warehouse huge numbers of people in prison for decades. In fact, there are movements on both sides of the political spectrum to rethink mandatory minimums and whether they benefit society. Unfortunately, until legislatures get the courage to reconsider them, or a Supreme Court majority rules against them, mandatory minimums will continue to be an important consideration for people accused of attempting to entice a minor and other crimes.

Based in Miami, Seltzer Law, P.A., represents clients across the country who are accused of serious crimes involving technology and the Internet. To talk to an experienced cyber crime attorney about your rights and your options, call us today for a free consultation at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) or send us a message online.

Similar blog posts:

State May Charge Defendant With Enticement of a Minor After Federal Charges Dropped – State v. Canton

Court Reverses Dismissal of Case Based on Lack of Real Victim in Online Sex Sting – Georgia v. Grube

Sixth Circuit Affirms Longer Sentence After Resentencing for Attempting to Entice Minor – U.S. v. Johnson