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United States v. Faulkner

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

June 7, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Damion D. Faulkner, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee at Nashville. No. 3:15-cr-00101-1-Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., District Judge.

         ON BRIEF:

          Michael C. Holley, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

          S. Carran Daughtrey, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

          Before: SUHRHEINRICH, BUSH, and READLER, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          CHAD A. READLER, Circuit Judge.

         A fifteen-count indictment charged Damion Faulkner with a host of child-pornography-related offenses. Following his guilty plea to each count of the indictment, Faulkner was sentenced to 570 months in prison.

         On appeal, Faulkner argues that the United States Sentencing Guidelines required the district court to "group" together at sentencing his respective charges for production and attempted production of child pornography (Counts 1 and 2), which would have resulted in a lower offense level for purposes of calculating Faulkner's Guidelines range. Faulkner also challenges his sentence as both substantively and procedurally unreasonable. We reject each of his arguments and AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         From childhood on, Damion Faulkner's life was plagued by sexual misconduct. A stepbrother sexually abused Faulkner when he was nine years old. And Faulkner's father was convicted and classified as a sex offender for filming Faulkner's thirteen-year-old stepsister while she was showering. Tragically, Faulkner would mirror this misconduct as an adult.

         For a time, Faulkner overcame his challenging upbringing, graduating high school and enlisting in the United States Navy, where he served his country for two years before being discharged under honorable conditions. Upon his discharge, Faulkner went to live with his brother's family in Donelson, Tennessee.

         But in the years that followed, Faulkner's life would take a downward turn. He would have run-ins with the law, including convictions for shoplifting and drunk driving. And far worse than that, Faulkner began to act upon his long-harbored sexual attraction to young girls.

         A. Faulkner Engages In Sexual Misconduct With Minors.

         While residing with his brother, his brother's wife, and their five-year-old daughter, M.F., Faulkner touched M.F.'s groin on several occasions. M.F. told her parents about the incidents, but Faulkner denied the accusations, and no report was made to law enforcement.

         Faulkner returned to his abusive ways a few years later. M.F., now eleven, along with her maternal half-sister, five-year-old O.B., were staying with M.F.'s father and Faulkner over a summer weekend. On the first night of the girls' stay, Faulkner snuck into O.B.'s room as she slept, pulled aside her shorts and underwear, and touched her bare vaginal area, recording the incident on his phone, both by photograph and video.

         A separate incident took place the following day. This time, Faulkner took photographs as O.B. (wearing a bathing suit) and M.F. (wearing a sun dress) sat together. Though the girls were fully clothed, many of the photographs focused on the girls' genital areas or had other sexual overtones.

         Faulkner circulated the images he captured to at least ten other like-minded individuals, with hopes of receiving similar images in return. With one of these individuals, he shared lurid advice about how to make sexual advances on prepubescent girls: "[J]ust get her alone and kiss her the worsed [sic] she can do is say no and if she does that's [sic] its tell her u want to make her a woman." To another individual, Faulkner described his previous "relationship" with M.F., explaining that she had reported the repeated abuse to no avail. And to yet another, Faulkner claimed to have taken additional photographs of M.F. that were lost when his phone stopped working.

         For Faulkner, one criminal act led to another. In addition to recording illegal pornographic images of children, Faulkner also illegally amassed a large collection of pornographic images and videos of other child victims. Over time, Faulkner collected more than 3, 500 images, the worst ...


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