A Knoxville, Tennessee man convicted of producing child pornography, including the videotaped sexual abuse of a four-and-a-half-year-old girl who visited his home, has been sentenced to six decades in federal prison after trying to get out and it did not succeed in his guilty plea.
Andrew Stephen Couch, 37, learned of his punishment Thursday in the Tennessee East District courtroom from U.S. District Judge Katherine A. Crytzer, a person appointed by Trump in late 2020 who helped elect Judge Brett Kavanaugh through Senate confirmation hearings after his appointment to the Supreme Court. Krytzer sentenced Couch to 60 years — two consecutive 30-year terms — plus life supervised release.
Notably, on February 2, Couch’s defense attorney, Mike Whalen, filed a motion to withdraw his client’s guilty plea on two counts of manufacturing child pornography (counts 2 and 3 in the indictment).
“If the plea agreement is viewed as a contract, it is clear that a tripling of the sentence would indicate that the parties have failed to reach an agreement, and as such, Mr Counch [sic] should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea,” the attorney wrote.
In a December 2022 sentencing note, defense attorneys had railed against the “unelected” US sentencing committee and its policies for recommending his client 60 years in prison instead of a “sufficient” sentence that was “not more than necessary.”
“If, as in this case, the non-mandatory guidelines produce an absurd result, this court should ignore those guidelines, consider the expectations of the parties when negotiating the contract they are signing, and apply 18 USC 3553 factors to reach a judgment.” to phrase ‘sufficiently’ but no more than necessary” to meet the four purposes of conviction under Section 3553(a)(2),” Whalen argued, also arguing that Couch was “a 37-year-old man with serious charges, but a very limited criminal history.”
The court did not ignore the guidelines and clearly disagreed with the characterization of Couch’s criminal record as “very limited.”
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“The defendant has extensive prior experience of the criminal justice system, including six (6) prior adult criminal convictions. He’s not a novice,” Judge Crytzer wrote in mid-March as she listed six reasons why she denied Couch’s motion to withdraw his plea. “Finally, the United States need not show any prejudice against the possible retraction of a guilty plea unless the defendant first establishes a fair and equitable cause for allowing the retraction.”
“The defendant has not discharged his burden,” added the judge.
The Justice Department emphasized that Couch had “thousands” of child pornography photos and videos of “unidentified” children on his phone, as well as videos of his sexually abusing a young girl at his home.
“Pursuant to the plea agreement that was filed, a search warrant was issued at Couch’s home in December 2019, after Couch received a report that Couch was distributing child pornography. Couch’s cellphone was confiscated and forensically examined. The cellphone contained multiple child pornographic videos produced by Couch, in which he engaged in sexually explicit acts with a four-and-a-half-year-old woman who was visiting Couch’s home,” the DOJ said in a press release. “Also on the cellphone were thousands of other child pornography images and videos of unidentified children.”
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