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United States v. Hill

January 12, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
BRANDON K. HILL, APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Riley, Circuit Judge

Submitted: September 25, 2008

Before RILEY, BRIGHT, and MELLOY, Circuit Judges.

Brandon K. Hill (Hill) pled guilty to one count of knowingly and willingly enticing an adult female to travel in interstate commerce for purposes of prostitution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(a). Hill's advisory Guidelines range was 15-21 months. The district court*fn1 found the Guidelines range was insufficient to achieve an appropriate sentence, and an upward variance was warranted. The district court sentenced Hill to 51 months imprisonment, to run consecutively to a 174-month sentence Hill was already serving in the Western District of Oklahoma. Hill appeals, arguing the district court procedurally erred by failing to explain adequately the basis for its sentencing decision and by comparing Hill's offense to other sex crimes. Hill also argues the 51-month sentence was substantively unreasonable. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

Hill met the 19-year-old victim, S.S., at a gas station in Hazelwood, Missouri, in December of 2004. Some months later, Hill bought a plane ticket so S.S. could fly to Dallas, Texas, to meet Hill. Hill told S.S. he was a pimp. S.S. left Dallas, but returned to Dallas in March of 2005 and began to work as a prostitute for Hill. S.S. traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; San Antonio, Texas; Austin, Texas; Raleigh, North Carolina; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Kansas City, Missouri; Kansas City, Kansas; and St. Louis, Missouri, to work as a prostitute for Hill.S.S. turned over all of her prostitution proceeds to Hill.

Between August 2, 2005, and August 10, 2005, Hill induced S.S. to travel to Overland Park, Kansas, to work as a prostitute. Hill then induced S.S. to travel from Overland Park, Kansas, to St. Louis, Missouri, to work as a prostitute. S.S. was arrested in St. Louis, Missouri, for possession of marijuana by Maryland Heights Police. Police officers searched S.S.'s cell phone memory and found numbers, photos of Hill, and extensive text messages between S.S. and Hill. These messages discussed travel, prostitution, and the proceeds of the prostitution. Hill was charged with a single count of knowingly and willingly enticing an adult female to travel in interstate commerce for purposes of prostitution. See 18 U.S.C. § 2422(a). Hill admitted his involvement and pled guilty.*fn2

The court and the parties agreed Hill had a total offense level of 12 and a criminal history category of III, resulting in an advisory Guidelines range of 15 to 21 months. At Hill's sentencing hearing, the court considered Guideline departures under §§ 5K2.3 (extreme psychological injury) and 5K2.8 (extreme conduct), but determined there was no evidence to support either of these departures. However, the district court disagreed with the Guidelines range for Hill's offense and found the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) warranted an upward variance. The district court declared:

I do find, under 18 U.S.C. 3553(a), when I look at deterrence, the repetition of the activity and the fear that it will be repeated, and to protect the public from future crimes, and to avoid unwanted [sic] sentencing disparities, that a sentence of 51 months is an appropriate sentence to satisfy the statutory purposes of sentencing.

. . . The sentence is to run consecutive to the sentence he's currently serving in the Western District of Oklahoma[.]

At Hill's sentencing, the district court acknowledged, "I have to be candid. I probably came as close to falling out of my chair as I ever have as a federal judge when I saw the recommended range of punishment on Mr. Hill's case for a violation of the Mann Act for moving a woman across multiple state lines for the purpose of prostitution." The district court compared and contrasted Hill's offense and Guidelines range with sentences the court had imposed on other defendants for possession of child pornography, declaring, I've given out sentences for possession -- not manufacturing, not distribution, not transportation -- of child pornography of up to 237 months.

Here is an actual person being used in prostitution by [Hill], being moved across state lines for the purposes of prostitution, and the guidelines recommend a sentence of 15 to 21 months? I'm having a hard time putting that in context under unwanted [sic] sentencing disparities.

I know they're not the same, but here we're dealing with a real person who's in prostitution. [Hill] is ...


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