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United States v. Ryan

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

March 13, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Timothy Ryan, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued November 6, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. No. 15-cr-62 - Robert L. Miller, Jr., Judge.

          Before Bauer, Kanne, and Rovner, Circuit Judges.

          KANNE, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Timothy Ryan was convicted of possessing, receiving, and distributing child pornography. On appeal, he contends that his motion for substitution of counsel should have been granted and that the government failed to prove he knowingly distributed the files. He also argues his computer was improperly forfeited. For the reasons that follow, the judgment of the district court is affirmed.

         I. Background

         Illinois police used a peer-to-peer file sharing program to download child pornography from a computer located at Timothy Ryan's home. The Federal Bureau of Investigation then obtained a warrant, searched Ryan's home, and found a desktop computer that contained two peer-to-peer file sharing programs that had been used to download hundreds of child pornography files. The FBI also discovered on the computer a shortcut to a program used to block user-specific IP addresses from seeing the user's peer-to-peer activity or shared files, a list of what appeared to be law enforcement IP addresses, a shortcut to a program that encrypts peer-to-peer communications, and a folder with many images and videos of child pornography.

         Presented with this evidence, a grand jury indicted Ryan for possessing, receiving, and distributing child pornography. The indictment also sought forfeiture of unspecified property.

         Ryan rejected a plea offer made by the government and invoked his right to trial by jury. Five days before trial was set to begin, defense counsel filed on Ryan's behalf a motion to substitute counsel. The following day, the district court held a hearing on the motion. The prosecutor, defense counsel, and Ryan were present. Ryan testified that he had lost confidence in counsel and was frustrated with his inability to contact him. After discussing the matter with defense counsel and with Ryan, the court denied the motion.

         At trial, Ryan claimed the images must have been downloaded by his cousin who had access to his computer. The jury returned guilty verdicts convicting Ryan on all counts. The court sentenced Ryan to 157 months' imprisonment, including an enhancement for knowingly distributing child pornography. The district court also ordered the forfeiture of Ryan's computer.

         II. Analysis

         Ryan now appeals his convictions on the basis his motion for substitution of counsel should have been granted. He also appeals the distribution conviction on grounds that the government failed to adequately prove he knowingly distributed the files. He challenges his sentence on this basis as well. Finally, he challenges the forfeiture of his computer.

         A. Motion for substitution of counsel

         Five days before trial was to begin, Ryan filed a motion for substitution of counsel. After a hearing, the district court denied the motion. We review the denial for abuse of discretion. United States v. Volpentesta, 727 F.3d 666, 672-73 (7th Cir. 2013). When assessing a district court's denial of a motion for new counsel, this court considers "(1) the timeliness of the motion; (2) whether the district court conducted an adequate inquiry into the matter; and (3) whether the breakdown between lawyer and client was so great as to result in a total lack of communication, precluding an adequate defense." United States v. Ryals, 512 F.3d 416, 419 (7th Cir. 2008). "[E]ven if the district court abused its discretion, [the defendant] is not entitled to a new ...


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