In USA v. Wright today, the Sixth Circuit joined the First, Second, Fourth and Eighth circuits in holding that photographing a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct suffices for a child pornography conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a), which provides that “Any person who employs, uses, persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any minor to engage in . . . any sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct, shall be punished.”
The appellant-defendant argued that, although he photographed a minor’s sexually explicit conduct, he did not “use” the victim because he did nothing to induce or cause the minor’s actions. According to the defendant, the minor himself had “initiated the nude photography sessions.” The Court distinguished a Ninth Circuit case as inapplicable, concluding that there was “no circuit split,” and that simply taking the photographs in that situation was enough to sustain the conviction.
In defining the word “use,” the Court stuck to the basics of statutory interpretation: giving undefined words their “ordinary meaning” and taking Congressional intent into account. It rejected the defendant’s attempt to import a narrower definition of “use” from a federal “mandatory minimum” law penalizing “use” of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1), and did not apply any other canons or interpretive principles.