The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld partial consecutive sentencing that was imposed by a trial court after it had found that a defendant’s record of criminal activity was extensive. In upholding the sentence, the Court clarified the principles for determining whether an offender has an extensive record of criminal activity.
Quinton Devon Perry uploaded 174 images or videos of child pornography or child erotica to his Dropbox electronic-file-sharing account. When that activity was reported by Dropbox, the Jackson Police Department traced it to Mr. Perry and interviewed him. Mr. Perry admitted that he had downloaded the images and videos and then uploaded them to his Dropbox account. In addition, Mr. Perry admitted that he had shared or traded electronic files with others. Mr. Perry ultimately pleaded guilty to twenty-four counts of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor based on his possession of the 174 images or videos with the intent to distribute or exchange them. At the guilty plea hearing, the proffered evidence indicated that the criminal conduct took place during the years 2016 and 2017.
When a defendant pleads guilty to multiple offenses, the trial court must decide whether the defendant should serve his sentences concurrently or consecutively. Tennessee law authorizes consecutive sentencing for an offender whose record of criminal activity is extensive. In Mr. Perry’s case, the trial court decided to impose partial consecutive sentencing based on this provision, even though Mr. Perry had no prior criminal convictions.
Upon appeal, a majority of the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the sentence imposed by the trial court. However, one judge dissented, concluding that the trial court erroneously relied solely on the number of convictions to determine that Mr. Perry had an extensive record of criminal activity.
In its unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the majority of the Court of Criminal Appeals. The Court clarified that an extensive record of criminal activity, for purposes of imposing consecutive sentences, is that which is large or considerable in amount, time, space, or scope. More specifically, the Court also identified particular considerations relevant to the issue, including the amount of criminal activity, the time span, frequency and geographic span of the activity, and the existence of multiple victims. In this case, the Court concluded that the trial court did not rely solely on the number of convictions to determine that Mr. Perry had an extensive record of criminal activity. Instead, the trial court noted that Mr. Perry’s criminal activity was considerable in scope based on the large number of images or videos at issue and the fact that Mr. Perry admitted having shared or traded electronic files in addition to possessing them. The evidence also indicated that Mr. Perry’s criminal activity was not comprised of just a single occasion. Accordingly, the Court concluded that the trial court did not err by choosing to impose partial consecutive sentencing.
To read the Supreme Court’s opinion in State v. Quinton Devon Perry, authored by Justice Jeff Bivins, visit the opinions section of TNCourts.gov.