Conviction and Sentence Affirmed on Appeal in Online Enticement Case
|U.S. Attorney’s Office January 24, 2014|
PORTLAND, OR—A Portland man’s conviction and sentence for attempted online enticement of a minor were affirmed on appeal in a decision issued this morning by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Randy Lee Shill, 45, of Southeast Portland, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, followed by a five-year term of supervised release, after pleading guilty to attempting to entice a 16-year-old girl to have sex with him. Shill appealed both his conviction and the sentence he received. Shill is presently serving his sentence.
Early in October 2010, Shill approached a 16-year-old girl at a high school football game. The girl, a varsity athlete at the school, was soliciting donations for a fellow student who was undergoing cancer treatment. The girl was a classmate of Shill’s own daughter. Shill told the girl he had seen her at a local Target store recently and thought she looked very nice. The next day, he sent the girl a Facebook “friend” request. The girl told her parents, who reported Shill’s conduct to the Portland Police Department. As it turns out, the girl was one of several high school-aged girls Shill had approached, either online or in person. The matter was referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for further investigation.
An FBI agent, acting undercover, assumed the girl’s online identity and accepted Shill’s Facebook “friend” request. Over the next several weeks, Shill repeatedly communicated with the agent (posing as the girl) and repeatedly told her, in very graphic and explicit terms, the various sex acts he wanted to perform with her. Shill was arrested by FBI agents on November 10, 2010, when he went to meet the girl for sex. He had condoms, flowers, alcohol, and a bottle of Viagra with him at the time of his arrest.
Shill moved to dismiss the indictment. He claimed that Congress could not have intended the federal online enticement statute to apply to instances in which an adult attempts to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity that, had it occurred, would only be a misdemeanor under Oregon state law. He also claimed that the 10-year mandatory minimum penalty for online enticement amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown rejected both arguments. The Court of Appeals agreed.
Looking to the plain language of the statute, the Court of Appeals held that the federal online enticement statute imposes criminal liability on a person who knowingly uses “any facility of interstate commerce to entice or attempt to entice any individual who has not attained the age of 18 years to engage in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense.” Shill’s behavior, the court noted, was “not innocuous in the least; it involves real harm to a particularly vulnerable class of individuals whom Congress intended to protect.” Indeed, Congress wrote the online enticement statute “to address the very real and dangerous problem of the online enticement of minors.” Thus, the Court of Appeals concluded, the statute applies to defendants, like Shill, who attempt to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity that would amount to either a misdemeanor or a felony under state law. The Court of Appeals also rejected Shill’s claim that his 10-year sentence amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall praised the decision of the Court of Appeals for giving effect to important legislation enacted by Congress to protect children from online predators. “Congress could not have used broader, plainer, or more inclusive language” in the online enticement statute, she said, “and the Court of Appeals’ opinion recognized that.” She also praised the victim and her family for “doing all of the right things and taking all of the right steps,” which resulted in the arrest and conviction of a would-be sexual predator. The victim “recognized Shill’s inappropriate behavior and promptly told her father about it,” Marshall said. “The victim’s father promptly reported it to the Portland Police, who forwarded the information to the FBI.” Marshall urged all parents to “maintain open channels of communication with their children,” to “warn their children of the dangers of online predators,” and to “monitor their children’s online activities.”
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice and led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
This case was investigated by the FBI and the Portland Police Bureau, and it was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gary Sussman, Project Safe Childhood Coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon, and Kelly Zusman, Appellate Chief for the District of Oregon.