Lee Davis: 6th Circuit Appeals Court Upholds Child Pornographer’s Life Sentence

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - by Lee Davis
Lee Davis
Lee Davis
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the life sentence of a Jackson, Tennessee man who pleaded guilty to the sexual exploitation of minors and in trafficking child pornography. Stephen Lynn Hammonds, 45, argued on appeal that his 2010 sentence by U.S. District Court Judge Bernice Donald of Memphis was unreasonable and excessive.

Hammonds argued that mandatory guidelines imposed a sentence that was too harsh for the crime that was committed. Hammonds was originally arrested as part of a larger sting operation in 2009 by the Memphis office of the FBI. 

According to court records, Hammonds told FBI agents (posing as children) that he wanted to meet and have sex with them and that he had done so in the past on multiple occasions with his own teenage stepdaughter.
Agents with a warrant searched his home and found dozens of files containing child pornography. He then pled guilty to federal charges six months later. 

This wasn’t Hammonds’ first time in trouble with the law. In 1998 he was arrested on charges of statutory rape and incest with a young girl between the ages of 13 and 15. This previous convicted served to enhance the guidelines for his federal punishment and led to his life imprisonment. 
In his appeal he pointed to a psychologist’s report saying that he was only a medium-low risk of reoffending and he had accepted responsibility for his actions and even helped agents find and convict another child pornographer. 

The government argued that Hammonds had bragged about his earlier conviction for incest and used it while looking for new targets of abuse. Judge Donald declared Hammonds to be “particularly dangerous” and deemed him beyond the point of rehabilitation. She said that he needed to be permanently separated from society and the children he might place at risk.

Writing for a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Judge Julia Gibbons said Judge Donald did not abuse her discretion in doling out the tough sentence. “The district court did consider the mitigating factors in the case,” Gibbons said, “but found, appropriately and within its discretion, that concerns about the seriousness of the crime and the need to protect the public were paramount.”

Here is the full opinion of the court: United States v. Stephen Hammonds.

(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at lee@davis-hoss.com or at 266-0605.)


Chattanooga Business Leaders To Discuss Economic Impact Of New Climate Policies

With severe weather events causing economic losses across the country, business leaders will join Mayor Andy Berke and Heather McTeer Toney, Southeast Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for a roundtable to discuss the impact of climate change on Tennessee businesses.   Local business and community leaders will talk ... (click for more)

June County Unemployment Rates

County unemployment rates for June show the rate increased in all 95 counties. Specific county information for June is available on the Internet; enter http://www.tn.gov/labor-wfd/labor_figures/LaborJune2014.pdf . Davidson County had the state’s lowest major metropolitan rate in June at 6.0 percent, up from 5.2 in May. Knox County was 6.3 percent in June, up from 5.3 in May. ... (click for more)

23-Year-Old Stabbed To Death Early Sunday Morning

A man was stabbed to death in Chattanooga early Sunday morning. At approximately 2:48 a.m., Chattanooga Police responded to 2525 6 th  Avenue Court for a person stabbed.  Officers located a 23-year-old suffering from a stab wound to his chest.  The victim was transported to a local hospital where he later died from his injury.  The victim’s information ... (click for more)

Man, 21, Arrested In Hidden Camera Case

An arrest has been made in a case in which a hidden camera was apparently placed in several local restrooms. Chattanooga Police last Sunday, received from a citizen a hidden camera that apparently had been placed by an unknown suspect in the men’s restroom at the Chattanooga Billiards Club downtown.  The footage from the camera was reviewed by Investigators with the ... (click for more)

An Open Letter To Tennesseans

We are incredibly fortunate to live in a state in which companies worldwide are clamoring to establish a presence. Many attribute it to our pro-business culture, well-prepared workforce, low tax environment, right-to-work policies, and engaged citizenry.  That is why the announcement by Volkswagen to build its midsize sports utility vehicle and establish the South’s ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: O’Reilly’s Rant On Race

I don’t really care whether you like Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly but I strongly believe I must share an urgent transcript with you of what he said earlier this week. It’s been talked about on every network and it speaks boldly to the very heart of an American epidemic. Last weekend in Chicago 47 people were shot and five of them died. Black-on-black shootings have gotten ... (click for more)