Submitted: October 19, 2017
from United States District Court for the District of
Minnesota - St. Paul
LOKEN, BEAM, and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges.
COLLOTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE
Loyd pleaded guilty to sex trafficking of a minor, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a), and production of
child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a).
Section 2251(e) provides that an offender who violates §
2251(a) is subject to a minimum 25-year term of imprisonment
if he has sustained a prior conviction for a crime specified
in § 2251(e).
district court concluded that Loyd had one qualifying
prior conviction under § 2251(e), so the court adjusted
the advisory sentencing guideline range from 292-365 months
to 300-365 months to account for the statutory minimum
penalty. See USSG § 5G1.1(c)(2). The court then
decided that a sentence "that is within the guideline
range but not at the bottom is appropriate, " and
sentenced Loyd to 324 months' imprisonment on each count
to run concurrently. Loyd appeals the court's decision to
apply the 25-year minimum term under § 2251(e),
suggesting implicitly that the court would have imposed a
shorter sentence if the bottom of the advisory guideline
range had been 292 months rather than 300 months. We conclude
that the court correctly applied § 2251(e), and we
2251(e) provides that a defendant like Loyd who violates
§ 2251(a) "shall be fined . . . and imprisoned for
not less than 25 years" if he
has a prior conviction under [chapter 110], section 1591,
chapter 71, chapter 109A, or chapter 117, or under section
920 of title 10 (article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military
Justice), or under the laws of any State relating to
aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, abusive sexual contact
involving a minor or ward, or sex trafficking of children, or
the production, possession, receipt, mailing, sale,
distribution, shipment, or transportation of child
had a prior conviction under chapter 117 for knowingly
inducing a person to travel in interstate commerce to engage
in prostitution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(a).
The district court relied on this conviction to conclude that
the 25-year minimum sentence applied.
disagreement with the district court's application of
§ 2251(e) turns on the participle phrase that begins
with "relating to aggravated sexual abuse." He
contends that the "relating to" phrase modifies not
only the last antecedent phrase-"laws of any
State"-but also each of the chapters and sections of
federal law listed in § 2251(e). On that view, a prior
conviction under chapter 117 triggers the mandatory minimum
sentence only if the federal law "relat[es] to" one
of the enumerated types of misconduct. Loyd then asserts that
his offense under chapter 117 does not fit within any of the
enumerated categories, so the enhanced punishment should not
reject Loyd's position and conclude that the
"relating to" phrase modifies only the phrase
"the laws of any State." Under the rule of the last
antecedent, a limiting phrase that follows a list of terms or
phrases ordinarily is "read as modifying only the noun
or phrase that it immediately follows." Barnhart v.
Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 26 (2003). This canon operates as a
rebuttable presumption in statutory interpretation. "The
rule reflects the basic intuition that when a modifier
appears at the end of a list, it is easier to apply that
modifier only to the item directly before it."
Lockhart v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 958, 963
(2016). Applied here, the rule of the last antecedent means
that the "relating to" phrase modifies only the
phrase that immediately precedes it: "the laws of any
State." The enumerated chapters and sections of federal
law are not similarly limited.
urges us to apply a different canon of construction-the
series-qualifier canon. The series-qualifier canon
"requires a modifier to apply to all items in a series
when such an application would represent a natural
construction." Id. at 965. This canon trumps
the rule of the last antecedent when there is "'no
reason consistent with any discernible purpose of the statute
to apply' the limiting phrase to the last antecedent
alone." Wong v. Minn. Dep't of Human
Servs., 820 F.3d 922, 929 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting
United States v. Bass, 404 U.S. 336, 341 (1971)).
Loyd views "the laws of any State" and the several
listed chapters and sections of federal law as one series,
such that the "relating to" phrase modifies the
enumerated provisions of federal law too.
not convinced. For one thing, the statute does not present
the federal provisions in a single, uninterrupted series
together with the laws of any State. Section 2251(e) refers
instead to three groups of laws, separated by commas and
"or, " with each introduced by the word
"under"-"under [chapter 110], section
1591, chapter 71, chapter 109A, or chapter 117, or
under section 920 of title 10 (article 120 of the
Uniform Code of Military Justice), or under the laws
of any State relating to . . . ." 18 U.S.C. §
2251(e) (emphasis added); cf. United States v.
Pritchett, 470 F.2d 455, 459 (D.C. Cir. 1972). The last
group-"the laws of any State"-begins with a
determiner ("the"), thereby suggesting that the
modification in the "relating to" phrase does not
reach back to the previous groups. See Antonin
Scalia & Bryan A. Garner, Reading Law: The
Interpretation of Legal Texts 149 (2012). This syntax
and division of the purported series strengthens the
inference that "relating to" modifies only the last
group of laws that immediately precedes the modifying phrase.
problem with Loyd's approach is that the restrictive
"relating to" phrase has no meaning if it modifies
each of the listed portions of federal law. "Relating to
X" can modify "the laws of any State, "
because some state laws will relate to X and others will not.
But the modifier cannot restrict "chapter 117" as a
whole, because the chapter either relates to X or it does
not. To hold that chapter 117 does not relate to any of the
enumerated forms ...