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United States v. Huor

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

March 10, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
CHANDA HUOR, also known as Kevin Thorn, Defendant-Appellant

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

          Before REAVLEY, ELROD, and GRAVES, Circuit Judges.

          REAVLEY, Circuit Judge

         Chanda Huor was convicted of failure to register as a sex offender under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act ("SORNA"). His sentence included a prison term followed by ten years of supervised release during which he would be subject to various conditions. His appeal challenges five of the conditions imposed. We find the district court acted within its discretion by imposing a special condition requiring Huor to undergo sex offender treatment but abused its discretion by imposing a special condition prohibiting purchase, possession, or use of sexually stimulating materials. The district court also erred, as a matter of law, by imposing a special condition requiring the defendant to "follow all other lifestyle restrictions . . . imposed by the therapist." Further, the judgment must be reformed to omit a special condition prohibiting Huor from "residing or going to places" frequented by minors without permission from his probation officer because that special condition was not pronounced orally at sentencing. Similarly, the judgment must be reformed to omit a "standard" sex offender treatment condition that largely overlaps with, but materially differs from, the similar "special" condition that was orally pronounced at sentencing and included separately in the written judgment.

         In light of our rulings, only the treatment condition will stand. The defendant also challenges a discrete aspect of this condition, which provides: "After an initial evaluation if the doctor finds that treatment isn't necessary and the defendant is not a danger, the Court will amend and abate this special condition of supervised release." Because the district court retained its power to sentence the defendant and did not improperly delegate it to the doctor, we uphold this aspect of the treatment condition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 1998, at the age of 16, defendant Chanda Huor pleaded guilty to raping a four-year-old girl. In addition to a lengthy prison sentence, he was required to register as a sex offender for life. Huor got out of prison in 2005. Since then, he has updated his registration several times but not with the diligence required by law; he has multiple failure-to-register convictions.

         Huor updated his registration with the Virginia State Police in early 2013. In March of that year, he moved to San Antonio, Texas and did not update his registration. When the deadline to do so passed, a warrant for Huor's arrest issued out of Virginia. U.S. Marshals eventually tracked him to Texas, where he had moved to be with a girlfriend. After the relationship ended, he lived with a woman named Crystal Quesada and her eight-year-old son for nearly a year. Marshals contacted Quesada and learned that she knew Huor as Kevin Thorn. They did not find Huor until several days later. When they did, he was living with a new girlfriend and her two young daughters. This third girlfriend, Rosemary Valdez, was unaware that Huor was a convicted sex offender and also knew him as Kevin. Huor was at Valdez's residence when the Marshals arrived and was arrested without incident.

         Huor was charged in a one-count indictment with violating 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a) as a person required to register under SORNA who had traveled in interstate commerce and knowingly failed to register or update his registration. He pleaded guilty. The district court sentenced Huor to 24 months of imprisonment and ten years of supervised release. Much of the sentencing hearing concerned the propriety of sentencing conditions, particularly the requirement that Huor undergo sex offender treatment and the ban on sexually stimulating materials. The district court acknowledged that Huor had not committed any sex offenses since being released from prison and had indeed shown no "propensity at least in the last ten years . . . to reengage in the kind of behavior that put him where -- where he is today."

         Huor's counsel objected to the sex offender treatment condition. The district court explained that it was imposing the special condition primarily because Huor had lied to two different women, earned a place in those women's homes by the deceit, and thereby placed himself under the same roof as small children. This combination of events, a scenario SORNA is specifically designed to prevent, satisfied the district court that Huor required continuing sex offender treatment. In response to Huor's objection, however, the district court agreed that such treatment may be unnecessary and qualified the special condition as follows: "I'm going to amend that condition, at this time, to require that he undergo at least an initial evaluation, and if the psychiatrist or psychologist believes that under the circumstances a -- further treatment is not necessary, then I will amend and abate the condition." This "initial evaluation qualification" is challenged on appeal along with the special condition itself.

         Huor's counsel also objected to the special condition prohibiting sexually stimulating materials. When Huor's counsel noted the absence of any link to pornography in Huor's case, the district court replied, "No, he didn't have child pornography. He just raped a four year old." The district court also relied on evidence heard in prior cases that sexually stimulating materials contribute to recidivism in pedophiles. The special condition, however, was amended and made subject to the initial evaluation qualification.

         Other conditions imposed at sentencing provoked no objection. Pertinent here, Huor's counsel did not object to a condition requiring Huor to "follow all other lifestyle restrictions or treatment requirements approved by the therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist and continue those restrictions as they pertain to avoiding risk situations throughout the course of his supervision." And the written judgment, when handed down, included another special condition to which Huor's counsel had no opportunity to object-a special condition prohibiting Huor from "residing or going to places" frequented by minors without permission from his probation officer. The written judgment also included, as "Standard Condition 14, " sex offender treatment largely redundant of the sex offender treatment separately imposed as a special condition but lacking the "initial evaluation qualification." Huor timely appealed.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review and Essential Law

         When challenged on appeal, conditions of supervised release are reviewed for an abuse of discretion. United States v. Morin, 832 F.3d 513, 516 (5th Cir. 2016).

[S]uch conditions must be reasonably related to one of the following statutory factors: (i) the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant; (ii) the need to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct; (iii) the need to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant; and (iv) the need to provide the defendant ...

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