US v. Helton: Helton pleaded guilty to being in possession of child pornography. In a statement to police following the seizure of his computer, Helton admitted the possession, denied sharing it with others, and explained that he had "sought treatment in the past." He was sentenced to 60 months in prison, below the advisory Guideline range, and to a lifetime term of supervised release.
On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed Helton's lifetime term of supervised release. First, the court concluded that there were no procedural errors in the imposition of the sentence. It rejected Helton's argument that the district court had not provided sufficient explanation for why a lifetime term of supervised release was "sufficient, but no greater than necessary." In particular, the court stressed that the district court had concluded that a variance for the term of imprisonment was only appropriate "because she knew that Helton would be subject to a lengthy term of supervised release" and that the district court upheld several of Helton's objections to strict optional conditions of supervised release. Second, the court found the lifetime term (which it described as within the statutory and Guideline ranges) was also substantively reasonable, largely for the same reasons.
Judge Gregory wrote a concurring opinion, in which he praised the district court for "display[ing] courage in varying downward" and hoping that "[p]erhaps, in the future, our Guidelines will evolve to become truly proportional to the severity of our crimes."
NOTE: I argued the case on appeal for Helton.