Submitted: June 16, 2016
from United States District Court for the District of North
Dakota - Bismarck
MURPHY, BRIGHT, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.
a jury trial, Ervin St. Claire ("St. Claire") was
convicted of three counts of aggravated sexual abuse in
violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1153 and 2241(c), as well
as three counts of abusive sexual contact in violation of 18
U.S.C. §§ 1153 and 2244(a)(5). St. Claire appeals
his conviction and sentence, arguing that the district
court abused its discretion in admitting
testimony from a fourth alleged victim, whom St. Claire has
not been charged with assaulting, and in imposing a life
sentence. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we
Claire is married to Veronica St. Claire
("Veronica"), with whom he lived in Dunseith, North
Dakota. Occasionally, Veronica's grandchildren visited
of Indian Affairs Special Agent John Rogers received a
Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Report alleging that St.
Claire had sexually abused one of his step-granddaughters.
Special Agent Rogers began an investigation, which revealed
purported sexual abuse of three of St. Claire's
step-granddaughters and ultimately led to St. Claire being
charged with six counts of sexual abuse of children or
Claire was initially indicted for aggravated sexual abuse of
two children under the age of twelve in violation of 18
U.S.C. §§ 1153 and 2241(c) (Counts One and Two);
abusive sexual contact of a child under the age of twelve in
violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1153 and 2244(a)(5)
(Count Three); and abusive sexual contact with a minor
between the ages of twelve and sixteen in violation of 18
U.S.C. §§ 1153 and 2244(a)(3) (Count Four). A
superseding indictment was later returned adding an
additional count of aggravated sexual abuse of a child under
the age of twelve (Count Five) and another count of sexual
abusive contact of a child under the age of twelve (Count
Six). Counts Five and Six were added for the alleged abuse of
the third step-granddaughter.
Claire's trial commenced in June 2015. At trial, a fourth
step-granddaughter, ML, whom St. Claire had not been charged
with assaulting, testified over St. Claire's objection.
ML recounted that St. Claire unbuttoned her pants and put his
hands under her underwear when she was about three years of
age. ML was sixteen years of age at the time of trial.
jury found St. Claire guilty on all six counts. The statutory
range for Counts One, Two, and Five was 30 years to life. 18
U.S.C. § 2241(c). The maximum term of imprisonment for
Counts Three and Six was life. 18 U.S.C. § 2244(a)(5).
The maximum term of imprisonment for Count Four was two
years. 18 U.S.C. § 2244(a)(3). At sentencing, the
district court determined that St. Claire's total offense
level under the United States Sentencing Guidelines
("U.S.S.G.") was 53, which put him ten levels above
the maximum offense level of 43. See U.S.S.G. ch. 5,
pt. A, cmt. n.2. The district court further determined that
St. Claire had a Criminal History Category of III. This
combination of total offense level and criminal history
resulted in a recommended guideline range of life. Neither
the defense nor the government objected to the district
court's guideline determination. The government
recommended an overall sentence of life imprisonment, and St.
Claire requested a sentence of 30 years. The district court
imposed concurrent life sentences on Counts One, Two, Three,
Five, and Six, as well as a concurrent two-year term of
imprisonment on Count Four.
Claire appeals his conviction and sentence. He argues the
district court abused its discretion by allowing ML's
testimony under Federal Rule of Evidence 414 and by imposing
a substantively unreasonable life sentence. We will consider
his arguments in turn.
review evidentiary rulings made by the district court for
abuse of discretion. United States v. Hollow Horn,
523 F.3d 882, 887 (8th Cir. 2008). We reverse "only when
an improper evidentiary ruling affected the defendant's
substantial rights or had more than a slight influence on the
verdict." United States v. Picardi, 739 F.3d
1118, 1124 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 1 ...