United States v. Castellano, No. 21-4419 (4th Cir. 2023).
Nature of Case: Following Defendant’s conviction to transporting child pornography he was sentenced to 12 years in prison and lifetime supervised release with conditions. Defendant has subsequently returned to prison three times for violating the conditions of his supervised release.
One of the special conditions of supervised release imposed on Defendant, and central to the dispute in this case, reads: “The defendant shall not have access to or possess any pornographic material or pictures displaying nudity or any magazines using juvenile models or pictures of juveniles.”
Defendant now challenges the sentence imposed after his third revocation of supervised release, arguing that the court erred in reimposing a special condition limiting his access to pornography (broadly defined) and imposing a 24-month prison term.
Holding: The Court of Appeals held, among other things, that the district court abused its discretion in retaining a special condition prohibiting defendant from accessing or possessing pornographic material. In so holding, the Court noted the changed law established in United States v. Van Donk, 961 F.3d 314, 323 (4th Cir. 2020), and United States v. Ellis, 984 F.3d 1092, 1099 (4th Cir. 2021), which require the government to put forth “individualized evidence linking pornography to [Defendant’s] criminal conduct or rehabilitation and recidivation risk.” Because the Government failed to offer any individualized evidence linking Defendant’s consumption of adult pornography and his risk of viewing child pornography, the Court concluded that the broad sweep of the condition imposed by the district court was inappropriate.