United States of America v. Daniel Szymanski
In US v. Szymanski, Merritt, J. decided with Rogers and White to vacate and remand the guilty plea conviction of Daniel Szymanski. Szymanski pled guilty without a plea agreement to receiving child pornography; he was sentenced to five years the statutory minimum sentence for the offense. On appeal the Court raised, sua sponte, the validity of Szymanski's guilty plea. The court ruled that the defendant must have had knowledge that the material he received featured minors engaged in explicit sexual conduct. Significantly, the court found that Szymanki was not adequately informed of the scienter requirement that the receipt of child pornography charge requires.
The Sixth Circuit followed United States v. X-Citement Video, Inc. 513 U.S. 64, 80-82 (1994). The Supreme Court held that the "knowingly" requirement of 18 U.S.C. 2252 (a)(2) extends to both the sexually explicit nature and to knowledge of the age of the performers. Here, the Court states that in order for a defendant to be convicted of receiving child pornography he must have known, not only that he was receiving something, but that what he was receiving was child pornography.
Receipt of child pornography carries a mandatory minimum of five years imprisonment and possession of pornography carries no minimum sentence. The similarity of the offences and the potential for gross disparity of the sentences gives the prosecutor the power to determine the sentence of a defendant on virtually identical crimes.