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United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Steven Arthur MORRILL, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 17-13495

Decided: July 12, 2018

Before WILLIAM PRYOR, BRANCH and FAY, Circuit Judges. David Charles Waterman, U.S. Attorney Service—Middle District of Florida, U.S. Attorney's Office, Tampa, FL, for Plaintiff-Appellee Robert Godfrey, Michael Shay Ryan, Rosemary Cakmis, Donna Lee Elm, Federal Public Defender's Office, Orlando, FL, for Defendant-Appellant

Steven Morrill appeals his conviction for attempting to induce a minor to engage in sexual activity. 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b). Morrill argues that the district court erred by instructing the jury that “induce means to stimulate the occurrence of or to cause” because that definition could have caused him to be convicted for causing a minor to engage in sexual activity instead of causing the minor to assent to engage in unlawful sexual activity. We affirm.

“We review de novo the legal correctness of jury instructions, but we review the district court’s phrasing for abuse of discretion.” United States v. Seabrooks, 839 F.3d 1326, 1332 (11th Cir. 2016). “We review jury instructions ‘to determine whether the instructions misstated the law or misled the jury to the prejudice of the objecting party.’ ” Id. at 1333 (quoting United States v. Gibson, 708 F.3d 1256, 1275 (11th Cir. 2013) ).

Section 2422(b) punishes “[w]hoever, using the mail or any facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce, ․ knowingly persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any individual ․ [less than] 18 years [old], to engage in prostitution or any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, or attempts to do so․” 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b). An attempt occurs if the defendant, “using the internet, act[s] with a specific intent to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce a minor to engage in unlawful sex.” United States v. Murrell, 368 F.3d 1283, 1286 (11th Cir. 2004). We have explained that “induce” means “to stimulate the occurrence of; cause.” Id. at 1287. “With regard to intent, the government must prove that the defendant intended to cause assent on the part of the minor, not that he acted with the specific intent to engage in sexual activity.” United States v. Lee, 603 F.3d 904, 914 (11th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). We held in Murrell that, “[b]y negotiating with the purported father of a minor, [the defendant] attempted to stimulate or cause the minor to engage in sexual activity with him,” which “fit[ ] squarely within the definition of ‘induce.’ ” 368 F.3d at 1287.

The district court did not err in instructing the jury about the charged offense. The district court correctly defined “induce” by employing the same definition we used in Murrell. See United States v. Rutgerson, 822 F.3d 1223, 1232 (11th Cir. 2016), cert. denied, ––– U.S. ––––, 137 S.Ct. 2158, 198 L.Ed.2d 231 (2017). And the district court did not need to include the phrase “the assent of” in its definition. The district court instructed the jury repeatedly that the government had to prove that Morrill was guilty of “persuading, inducing, or enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity.” The instructions required the jury to find that Morrill acted with the intent to induce a minor, not with the intent to engage in sexual activity with a minor. See Murrell, 368 F.3d at 1286.

We AFFIRM Morrill’s conviction.


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