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United States v. Groce

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

April 28, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
PETER ABRAHAM GROCE, Defendant - Appellant

Page 292

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Joseph H. Gay Jr., Assistant U.S. Attorney, Mark Randolph Stelmach, Esq., Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Texas, San Antonio, TX.

For Peter Abraham Groce, Defendant - Appellant: Adam Lake Kobs, Law Offices of Adam Kobs, San Antonio, TX.

Before JONES, BARKSDALE, and PRADO, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 293

EDITH H. JONES, Circuit Judge

Peter Groce pleaded guilty to one count of receiving child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2). In calculating Groce's guidelines range, the district court applied enhancements for distributing child pornography for the receipt of a non-pecuniary thing of value under U.S.S.G. § 2G2.2(b)(3)(B) and engaging in a pattern of activity involving sexual abuse or exploitation of a minor under U.S.S.G. § 2G2.2(b)(5). As calculated by the PSR, Groce's guidelines range was 360 months to life imprisonment. The district court sentenced Groce to 240 months imprisonment--the statutory maximum.

On appeal, Groce argues that the district court incorrectly applied the distribution and pattern-of-activity enhancements. He also contends his sentence is substantively unreasonable. Because Groce's arguments are meritless and any error was harmless, we AFFIRM.

BACKGROUND

The arguments Groce makes on appeal require briefly examining the graphic details of his crime. On July 16, 2011, law enforcement in Converse, Texas received information that Groce had exposed himself to two underage girls while they were playing video games at his house. Groce then began touching himself and asked the girls if they wanted to touch his genitals. A few minutes later, Groce stood up while still exposed, approached the girls, and began jumping up and down.

When the police confronted Groce, he admitted that the incident had occurred. Groce had been watching child pornography, when one of the girls entered the room. Groce did not attempt to pull his pants up or cover himself. Instead, he invited the child to touch his genitals, which she did momentarily before backing away. Groce made similar advances on the second girl when she entered the room a few minutes later. The second child, however, did not touch Groce's genitals.

After Groce described these events, police confiscated his computer and five CDs. A search of the electronic media revealed forty-three images and twenty-three videos depicting adults engaging in sexual acts with minors. Some of the minors depicted were as young as eighteen months old. The computer also contained a peer-to-peer file sharing program called " Frostwire." Groce admitted that he often installed and uninstalled file sharing programs like Frostwire to view child pornography. When asked about the program, Groce said: " I was always careful not to allow anybody to download much off of me. To be honest about it, it doesn't have anything to do with my feelings of distribution, it just has to do with I didn't want to get caught." Groce's search history further revealed that he actively sought child pornography. Groce explained that he would enter terms like " lolita," and " pthc, which stands for preteen hardcore," into Frostwire or Google to find his desired content. In addition to seeking child pornography, Groce also searched for information on " how to convince girls to have sex" and " how they convince kids to have sex."

Nearly a year later, in May 2012, Converse police again received a report that Groce had ...


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