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United States v. Schmidt

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

January 4, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
RICHARD ARTHUR SCHMIDT, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued: December 6, 2016

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. J. Frederick Motz, Senior District Judge. (1:04-cr-00052-JFM-1; 1:12-cv-03370-JFM)

         ARGUED:

          Sujit Raman, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Greenbelt, Maryland, for Appellant.

          Mary Elizabeth Davis, DAVIS & DAVIS, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Rod J. Rosenstein, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant.

          Before WILKINSON, AGEE, and HARRIS, Circuit Judges.

          WILKINSON, Circuit Judge:

         Richard Schmidt pleaded guilty to traveling in foreign commerce and engaging in illicit sexual conduct in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(c). Schmidt now argues that, as a matter of law, he did not travel in foreign commerce in connection with his illicit sexual conduct and is thus actually innocent of the offense. The district court agreed. We review the judgment of the district court de novo, and for the reasons that follow, we reverse.

         I.

         In the words of the district court, Schmidt is a "sexual predator." United States v. Schmidt, Civ. No. JFM-13-3370, 2015 WL 5440732, at *1 (D. Md. Sept. 11, 2015). He has been repeatedly convicted since 1984 for extensive and grotesque sex offenses involving young boys.

         In June 2002, Schmidt fled the United States to the Philippines to avoid arrest for allegedly making unauthorized contact with a minor in violation of his parole. He obtained employment there as a school instructor until he was arrested by Philippine authorities for once again sexually molesting young boys. In December 2003, Schmidt fled to Cambodia during a period of pre-trial release, roughly eighteen months after he first arrived in the Philippines. His pattern of sex offenses nonetheless continued until he was arrested by Cambodian authorities that same month. He was soon released on "police watch" only to rape another young boy within two days. As a result, Schmidt was deported to the United States to face numerous criminal charges, including a violation of § 2423(c) in Count 10 of his indictment for illicit sexual conduct in Cambodia. Schmidt pleaded unconditionally guilty to this charge and was sentenced to a prison term of fifteen years and a lifetime of supervised release.[1]

         Schmidt now petitions under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate his conviction, arguing that he is actually innocent of violating § 2423(c) and that his counsel was ineffective for failing to notice this defect at the time he entered his plea. Schmidt does not deny his illicit sexual conduct. Instead, Schmidt contends that his travel in foreign commerce ended during his stay in the Philippines, long before his illicit sexual conduct in Cambodia. He further claims that ...


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