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"Accidental" Download Sending 22-Year-Old Man To Prison 1127

Posted by Soulskill
from the do-not-pass-go dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Two years ago, Matthew White searched Limewire for porn. He was looking for 'College Girls Gone Wild,' but ended up downloading some images of child pornography. This was accidental, according to White, and he quickly deleted the images. A year later, the FBI showed up on his family's doorstep and asked to search the computer. After thorough sleuthing, the FBI found some images 'deep within the hard drive.' According to White, the investigators agreed that he himself could not have accessed the files anymore. Matthew now faces 20 years in jail for possession of child pornography. On advice from his lawyer, he intends to plead guilty so that he will 'hopefully' end up with 3.5 years in jail, 10 years probation and a registration as a sex offender. 'The FBI could not comment on this specific case, but said if child pornography is ever downloaded accidentally, the user needs to call authorities immediately. They may confiscate your computer, but it's better than the alternative.'"
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"Accidental" Download Sending 22-Year-Old Man To Prison

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  • Anonymous Coward (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:23AM (#30335554)

    Absolutely ridiculous

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:43AM (#30335752)

      Get a different lawyer.

      • by HangingChad (677530) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:26PM (#30336826) Homepage

        Get a different lawyer.

        Because we don't have nearly enough people in prison that we have to start going after the truly marginal cases like this one. If the FBI could recover the files, then they could also recover the fact they were old and the kid tried to delete them.

        There are two cases the law needs to change to consider:

        - Something truly accidental, like this case. Or some malware infection that tracks it in. Intent has to figure into the equation somewhere.

        - Sexting where teens are sending photos of themselves.

        Those cases weren't envisioned when the laws were drafted and putting these kinds of people on a sex offender registry dilutes the effectiveness and intent of that tool. This and that stupid law that says if you tap into an unencrypted wifi spot you're breaking the law. Insanity.

        • by TheLink (130905) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:52PM (#30337078) Journal

          How about curiosity?

          There were lots of people who received email with attached encrypted zipfiles containing malware ( http://news.zdnet.co.uk/security/0,1000000189,39147909,00.htm [zdnet.co.uk] ), and would enter the included passwords to access and run them. Some even feel a sort of compulsion to do it.

          Then there's the case of "Traci Lords". She was a porn star who lied about her age and appeared in porn films and even Penthouse magazine when she was 15. So guess how many people might possess child porn unknowingly? Apparently those pictures and films are considered child porn by US laws.

          Also think before you google for "Traci Lords" or similar stuff. Nowadays it is common for Google to automatically include pics as part of search results. I wonder how accurate the filters are at excluding stuff that is legally considered child porn in jurisdictions that you might wander into one day.

          Do you feel lucky?

          • Re:Anonymous Coward (Score:4, Interesting)

            by julesh (229690) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:09PM (#30337774)

            Then there's the case of "Traci Lords". She was a porn star who lied about her age and appeared in porn films and even Penthouse magazine when she was 15. So guess how many people might possess child porn unknowingly? Apparently those pictures and films are considered child porn by US laws.

            Along similar lines, consider that here in the UK it was legal to publish and/or possess porn featuring 16-year-olds until only a few years ago. Porn mags used to regularly publish pictures of 16 and 17 year olds. Tabloid "newspapers" often also featured such pictures.

            My guess is that this results in a situation where probably >10% of the population is currently guilty of a serious offence that they may well have no knowledge they have committed. This possibly includes a number of public libraries and/or newspaper publishers. I wonder if the offices of the Sun have destroyed the back copies of the papers they published that featured nude pictures of 16-year-old Linsey Dawn McKenzie [wikipedia.org]? Legally speaking, I believe they ought to have done, and technically somebody could do time over it if they haven't.

          • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:38PM (#30338044) Journal

            Possession of photos or videos (like Brooke Shields' Pretty Baby) shouldn't even be considered a crime. Whoever CREATED the image should go to jail, because he/she directly injured a minor, but not the possessor who did not harm anyone.

            "The War on Images" is as insane as the War on Drugs..... except even dumber. It's reached the point where you can even draw *cartoons* of children having sex or masturbating (think Japanese hentai/anime). Where's the victim in that case? No where.

    • by BeanThere (28381) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:28PM (#30336846)

      Yes, but at what point do we stop with all this overreaching by authorities and say "F- you, get out of my life and back off with the BS laws"? How long do we keep tolerating this, and how far do we let it go?

      The worst part is the attitude of the FBI here ... not "gee the system is fscked", but just "hand yourself in to the nearest authorities if this happens to you, you guilty citizen". Ridiculous ... if I'm not harming anyone, then nobody has any business what bits lie in the deleted areas of my hard disk, least of all some useless morons who happen to be employed by government.

  • by bobdotorg (598873) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:25AM (#30335568)

    What's a district attorney to do when someone anonymously sends the D.A. an email with kiddie porn attached? Technically, the D.A. downloaded it.

    • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:29AM (#30335604) Homepage

      Start a witch hunt to find who sent it. Remember, attack is the best defense.

    • Prison Sentences (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Iskender (1040286) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:41AM (#30335738)

      Whatever the (dis)merits of the application of the law are here you Americans really, really need to shorten your prison sentences.

      Where I live (Finland), it's hard to actually be imprisoned for 20 years even if you murder someone. Sure, technically killers get lifetime sentences, but they are mostly let out after a decade or so.

      And despite us technically having lots of killers and other criminals on the loose, this country is very safe. I believe the science actually says that prisons manufacture and "enhance" criminals.

      • Re:Prison Sentences (Score:5, Informative)

        by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:02PM (#30335984) Journal

        Politics drives it. In the US, no politician dares look soft on crime. Advocating ridiculously long sentences is a quick and easy way to bolster an image. And failing to be tough is an even quicker way to end a political career. Huckabee is getting flak because one man he let out early has shot and killed 4 police officers. Type "Dukakis" into a search engine and one of the first things that shows up is Willie Horton.

  • Call the FBI? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phase_9 (909592) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:26AM (#30335572) Homepage
    "Oh HAI, I just downloaded some kiddie pron... by mistake of course you understand"
    yeah, I can see that one working out well...
    • Re:Call the FBI? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Saturday December 05, 2009 @02:34PM (#30337452) Homepage
      God, calling the authorities is the WORST thing you could do.

      First, they're going to take your computer and scour it with a fine tooth comb. Anything else that's illegal, they're going to nail you for. Got any other porn? Let's hope it's all GILF porn, because if somebody even *looks* that they might be under 18, they're going to try to nail you with it. Even if it's deleted. Perhaps *especially* if it's deleted. And they may try to nail you with your normal porn -- after all, it could be obscene. Got any emails where a friend mentions smoking a joint? Now they have cause to harass him.

      And that assumes that they believe that it was an accident that you downloaded this. If they don't believe you, they'll nail you, and use your confession against you. (Yes, it's a confession. You also consented to their search.)

      Even if they believe you and don't find anything else, you may never get your computer back. Or if you do, the drive may be wiped bit by bit -- after all, they can't give you the child porn back.

      Seems to me the best thing to do is to delete it with something that overwrites every bit, like shred. And move on with your life. If the police do show up down the road, ask for their search warrant. If they don't have one, send them away. In any case, don't answer *any* questions beyond your name until you've talked to your lawyer. "Were you using your computer the night of Jan 12th?" "Um, I have nothing to say to you until I've spoken with my lawyer".

      And if they do show up, get a lawyer. And if Matthew White's public defender is suggesting that he plead guilty (and there's not more to the story), MATTHEW WHITE NEEDS TO GET A BETTER LAWYER! Put himself into debt for years if he has to, but it's far better than getting convicted for this crap.

  • Public Defender (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mbone (558574) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:27AM (#30335580)

    Matt is pleading guilty on the advice of his public defender in hopes of getting a three and a half year sentence.

    In other words, he doesn't have the money to actually fight this.

    • Re:Public Defender (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NoYob (1630681) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:59AM (#30335956)

      Matt is pleading guilty on the advice of his public defender in hopes of getting a three and a half year sentence.

      In other words, he doesn't have the money to actually fight this.

      Many public defenders are lawyers called upon by the courts and they're not making the billable hours they need by doing it. So, the quicker they get rid of the case the more apt they are to get back to business.

      Regardless of what happens now. The kid's life is over. His name is all over the place and employers who do any sort of background check will find this.

      He will have to spend the rest of his life on some sort of public aid. He may become a bitter angry person that cannot contribute to society even if he wants to contribute. What a goddamn waste.

    • by ericbg05 (808406) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:13PM (#30336086)

      "Matt is pleading guilty on the advice of his public defender in hopes of getting a three and a half year sentence."

      In other words, he doesn't have the money to actually fight this.

      ... where by "he" you mean the PD himself.

      Look, public defenders almost *always* encourage their clients to settle, because their compensation structure incentivizes them that way. PDs barely make ends meet, and they get compensated by the number of cases they take on, with very little marginal compensation for taking a case to trial. So they wind up taking on 50, 100 cases at a time. The faster they can get rid of you, the faster they can take on another case.

      Notice that the merits of your case didn't appear in the above reasoning chain.

      Of course if the client insists on going to trial, the PD is legally obliged to do so--but how many criminal defendants know enough AND have the cojones to argue with their lawyer when their liberty is at stake?

      The PD compensation system is b0rkd, and innocent people are in jail because of it.

      • So let ordinary citizens defend people who can't afford lawyers and who are getting screwed over by public defenders.

        If you have the legal right to represent yourself even though you're not a lawyer, why don't you have the legal right to have another non-lawyer who you have more confidence in represent you?

        I've gone up against experienced lawyers (including the government 3 times) at least half a dozen times - I've won every time. From my experience, most lawyers don't even know all that much law. They just know how to draft and file motions with the right words, and how to navigate the court system. It's not that hard, there are already too many lawyers, and we need to get these blood-sucking ticks out of the legal system if we want justice instead of "the law."

  • Bad Ideas (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:27AM (#30335590)

    DO NOT CALL THE AUTHORITIES

    Worst idea ever. If you actually have undeleted CP on your computer you will get 20 years.
    The only safe thing to do is destroy the hard drive.

    • No (Score:3, Informative)

      by KalvinB (205500)

      Why wouldn't a jury believe you had no intention of downloading kiddie porn when you were the one who reported it to the cops? Calling the cops sends it up the line to who you got it from.

      • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:45AM (#30335780)

        Why? Because the prosecutor and judge will tell the jury that the law makes no distinction between accidental possession and intentional possession.

        Although the jury has the legal right of nullification, the judge and prosecutor will tell them that "this is what the law says you have to do" and the jury will convict, thinking they HAVE to.

      • Re:No (Score:5, Informative)

        by Spatial (1235392) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:56AM (#30335892)
        Because the words "Child porn" deactivate the cerebral cortex.

        You can't expect thought on the subject. You can't expect a rational examination of the arguments, actions or context. People are stupid enough to begin with; when you bring this subject into the fold any trace of intelligence completely disappears.
    • Re:Bad Ideas (Score:5, Informative)

      by Manip (656104) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:36AM (#30335680)

      I was thinking the same thing.

      I remember that story a few weeks ago... Someone found a shotgun in their back garden (this is the UK) and called the local police station to tell them he is bringing it in. Well anyway long story short because it was loaded and the box also had ammo he ended up getting a minimum of I believe three years.

      Yet another story, this time from the US.... Someone finds Meth, attempts to turn it into the police... Gets hit with possession of drugs. This anecdote was on a cops-like show no less.

      So too bad for us that common sense fails so often even in a legal system that is designed to have "common sense" designed into it at at least three levels (Police, Prosecutors Office, and Judge). They love to use the excuse that they enforce the laws as written (when in reality laws are meant to be interpreted so exactly this kind of thing doesn't happen!).

      • Re:Bad Ideas (Score:4, Informative)

        by pbhj (607776) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:05PM (#30336000) Homepage Journal

        http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/Man-hid-39found39-gun-in.5883631.jp [northamptonchron.co.uk] (sic) appears to be the story.

        He claims to have found the gun and ammunition whilst preparing his brothers garden for a party. He apparently then says he hid the gun at home "intending to hand it to police later".

        The guy was then arrested on suspicion of aggravated burglary (which I think is burglary where he acted violently against a person) and the police found the gun .. then this story came out.

        If it's a different story you're referring to can you cite a reference.

        Tip: if you find a shotgun and ammunition don't touch it, stand there and call the police. If you don't have a phone then get someone to call the police for you or have a trusted person watch the weapon whilst you go to get the police. Moving the item is probably going to disturb evidence.

      • Re:Bad Ideas (Score:5, Insightful)

        by _LORAX_ (4790) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:22PM (#30336178) Homepage

        Not really.

        In the UK possession of a firearm is a crime. He found a shotgun, held on to it for 24 hours, called the police but didn't tell them what he was bringing in, took public transportation with a loaded shotgun, showed up at the station, and plonked an illegal weapon on the front desk. He was an idiot and he will probably face some jail time for his ineptitude. He should have left the crime scene undisturbed and called the police. The UK police have dealt with other situations and even had citizens take possession of firearms when they were in dangerous locations ( playground ) and there were no charges in those cases.

  • Don't plead guilty (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:28AM (#30335600)

    Should always maintain your innocence in these type of cases because the guilty plea will haunt you the rest of your life. 3.5 years is still ridiculous.

  • the real lesson (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:30AM (#30335610)

    If the FBI shows up at your door and asks to search your computer, the correct answer is 'No.'

  • by WGFCrafty (1062506) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:32AM (#30335620)

    "One day, you're going to get a knock on the door and have your child taken away for many years," he said.

    No one sees any problem with letting German existentialists design our laws until things like this start to happen.

    Good job Kafka!

    Asshole.....

  • It happens (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dartz-IRL (1640117) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:33AM (#30335638)

    Spammers on a worksafe imageboard I occasionally visit sometimes upload it to the place. I report it to the board's administrator via IRC....which is logged... and purge private history. It is such an easy thing to have happen. Hell, a google search with safesearch off can do it.

    This is 'won't somebody please think of the children' gone way to far.

    And the public defender encouraging him to plead guilty? That lawyer should be fired for incompetance. How can someone be guilty of a crime they never had any intention of committing, and took active steps to actually avoid committing it?

    I mean... I've bought second-hand HDD's that have been zeroe'd and formatted. Could I be potentially liable if the previous owner had been a kiddie-porn freako? The images might still be buried deep in the disk after all.

  • self-incrimination (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:33AM (#30335644) Homepage

    'The FBI could not comment on this specific case, but said if child pornography is ever downloaded accidentally, the user needs to call authorities immediately.'

    At which point you've just confessed to trafficking in child porn. No, the proper thing to do is have a secure file deletion utility to nuke all evidence on your system.

  • Insanity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:34AM (#30335658)

    Child porn has just become way too much of a boogeyman these days. Even if he had downloaded the images to look at - what harm would it have caused? He didn't ruin some girls life by looking at pictures that already exist.

    Personally, just to get around stupid cases like this, I'd say that simple POSSESSION of child pornography shouldn't even be illegal. The point is the harm done to the actual children. By that token PRODUCTION should be illegal as that's when the harm is done. BUYING it (through cash or barter) should also be illegal as it finances production of more material. Other than that? Having a picture or video on your hard drive hurts no one, and it isn't going to turn someone into a stark raving mad child molester anymore than playing GTA turns them into a murderer.

    If simple possession were not against the law then every one of these borderline gray area cases like this would go away.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:36AM (#30335676)

    Please someone answer me as honestly as they can: even if that guy happened to willingly watch child porn images, what damage does that do to society? Obviously exploiting children to take those pictures is a bad thing. Yet, we are talking about a random person who never harmed or abused a child. He even downloaded them from a P2P network, which means that he didn't indirectly supported harming children by financing it. How will society improve itself if the justice system throws that man in jail for yeas to come? What is there to be gained? // Posted anonymously to avoid all that social stigma that is promptly associated with those that question society's knee jerk reaction regarding child pornography.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by scharkalvin (72228)

      I would think that it is more important to find the perverts that produce this crap and throw the bookcase at them. Arresting someone just because they happen to have kiddie porn on their computer without considering HOW it got there (they could have been HACKED) is a misscarrage of justice. Just wait till some congressmen gets caught in a such a bind (maybe the Chinese or the Iranians hacked his computer) and the NY Times gets hold of the story.

  • FBI bait? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by joetheappleguy (865543) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:37AM (#30335684) Homepage
    I bet that's what the guy downloaded, given the description of how the FBI just shows up and knows exactly what to look for.

    If so, the good luck explaining your way out of that.
    • Re:FBI bait? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by canajin56 (660655) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:13PM (#30336090)
      The FBI bait sites are awesome, because they don't care how downloaded the image, just that you made the request. So, people have found out what the bait images are, apparently, and like to "FBI Roll" people by either linking to them directly, or even better, putting them as a 1x1 image hidden somewhere on an innocuous page. That way you never even see it, but it's in your browser cache now, so when the FBI comes knocking after your download, it'll be there. Somebody needs to step this program up a notch, and start FBI rolling every major newscaster, reporter, media executive, and politician (big and small). Until that happens, nobody gives a shit. Nobody cares that some innocent guy goes to jail for 3.5 years and can never get a job ever again and dies homeless, nobody cares in the slightest. Nobody even cares when a 17 year old girl gets 10 years for taking a pic of her tits and sending it to her boyfriend. Because she's a pedophile, it says so right here in the charges, anybody defending her is also a pedophile. And in fact, since she's underage, anybody defending her is a DOUBLE pedophile. You can imagine, a double pedophile is not something you want to be. That's right, the war on child porn is so bad, people won't even care about a white, privileged, teenage girl! I think you'd have to get every last person in the house and senate indited at once, because if you even only got half of them, the other half would turn on them like rabid wolves, cheering and applauding that the bait system works.
  • by QCompson (675963) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:39AM (#30335712)
    In my opinion, it's irrelevant whether or not he downloaded the images on purpose. The connection between downloading an image off of limewire and the sexual abuse of a child is so tenuous it's absurd. The only way people can justify it is to make up crazy hypotheticals and market demand theories which are used in no other context.
  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:40AM (#30335722) Homepage Journal
    ... to fire his attorney and enter a plea of not guilty. If I were him I would fight to the end to avoid the felony conviction. They said he is in his early twenties with no criminal record - why screw that up now? Even if he spent years fighting the charges, and drove himself to bankruptcy in the process, it would still be less of a problem to his future than taking the felony conviction and serving 3.5 years in prison.
  • Oblig. (Score:3, Funny)

    by omuls are tasty (1321759) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:44AM (#30335770)
    Pics or it didn't happen!
  • Appalling (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eravnrekaree (467752) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:48AM (#30335814)

    This is shocking and appalling and must stop. This sort of thing makes it impossible to be able to even look at webpages on the net. What if one accidentily clicks on a link without knowing what it goes to and ends up with these files in their web browser cache? Clicking on a link is not enough to show intent, we cannot go on a wild witch hunt where everyone is assumed guilty until proven innocent. Under the law, it is the act of taking pictures of children in a sexually suggestive way is what should be considered illegal. For some time it has been argued that those who were purchasing such material were helping to contribute to this. However, an accidental download of such a thing does not contribute in any material way to it whatsoever and in most cases, such as we see here, is completely accidental. There are serious problems with this. This is like arresting a person for seeing a blank sheet of paper on a sidewalk, picking it up and noticing that on the other side there was child porn, since they had simply picked it up and held it. The notion is so outrageous and this is exactly what is going on here. This has nothing to do about protecting children and these prosecutions are not protecting children. That is NOT what this dragnet is about. They are NOT protecting children but they are attacking and destroying the lives of completely innocent people. In fact, many childrens lives have already been destroyed because they took a picture of themselves and simply had the picture on their cell phone. This is about thought control and precrime, because by accidentily downloading this, no one anywhere has been harmed, all it is a copy of bits. Really, this massive abuse of the law needs to stop.

  • The FBI is lying. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NOSpAM.barbara-hudson.com> on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:51AM (#30335836) Journal

    The FBI could not comment on this specific case, but said if child pornography is ever downloaded accidentally, the user needs to call authorities immediately

    There is NO requirement to "call the authorities". Delete it, preferably with a file shredder that opens up the file, overwrites each block with random bytes, closes the file, flushes the cache, THEN deletes the file. "Nothing to see here." Their "l33t toolz" (which are really just some perl scripts) won't recover it.

  • do the math (Score:5, Informative)

    by digitalsushi (137809) <slashdot@digitalsushi.com> on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:52AM (#30335852) Journal

    Do the math. What's the most popular porn? Girls as close to 18 as possible. Combine that with user submitted porn. Combine that with typical porn viewing habits, i.e. way too much. Now do some stats. Who's leftover that doesn't have something illegal in their cache? No one who looks at lots of porn, that's for sure. Face it. If someone doesn't like you, they can mess your life up financially, politically, emotionally, really anything they fell like if they are malicious.

  • Wow is this scary (Score:3, Interesting)

    by labradore (26729) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:54AM (#30335878)
    I don't know about you, but some times I've come across porn that I think of as a little bit marginal. I also don't like the idea of someone digging up deleted files on my hard disk. It seems like a good idea to have a tool that scrambles all the bits on the free space of your hard disk overnight and during idle periods. Does anyone know if such a thing exists?
  • by Dunkirk (238653) * <david&davidkrider,com> on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:55AM (#30335886) Homepage

    What this speaks -- loudly and clearly -- to me is that the national tapping of any and all communication lines is complete. And, when things are slow and the FBI can't find a terrorist cell or -power group to take down, they troll their logs, and look to hang someone that no one would defend.

    I'm sure that both the EFF and the ACLU will jump in here any minute now...

    It just makes the case for using cryptography in everything you do online. I don't know how far it goes though. It may be that they finally laid off Zimmerman because they have enough horsepower to break anything that bubbles up to the surface as potentially interesting.

  • My $.02 (Score:5, Informative)

    by sexybomber (740588) <boccilino@@@gmail...com> on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:56AM (#30335906)
    I posted something similar to this in the comments to the article, but I thought I would start the discussion here too. For those of you who are inclined to rip on the public defender for letting this guy take the plea, bear in mind that the PD is probably handling about a thousand other cases (no exaggeration), not to mention that he barely makes a living wage. Public Defenders' offices are criminally underfunded compared to the DAs, who have the full backing of the State.

    Matt White's attorney probably had no choice but to take the plea and dispose of the case quickly. The system is designed so that the PDs can't take anything to trial on account of the sheer volume of cases they have to manage; they're forced to plead everything out and pray they get a good deal. (If they took even a small fraction of their cases to trial, their other clients would be waiting for years to have their cases heard, and there's this pesky little piece of paper that guarantees people the right to a speedy trial. (Of course, it also guarantees the right to effective counsel, but the bar for what constitutes "effective" is ridiculously low.)

    It's a win-win for the people who matter: the DA gets to scratch another kill mark into his desk, the prison system gets another warm body it can use to justify its budget, the politicians who depend on prisons to keep the headcounts in their districts high get another "constituent" who can't vote, plus they get to claim they're "tough on crime" and are "protecting the children".

    The fact that an (arguably) innocent man has his life ruined as a result doesn't even factor into the equation. He and the public defender are pawns. It's not that the $ystem hates them, it's that, to the people who run the show, they truly, truly do not matter.

    So the moral of the story is: if you accidentally download CP, pull the plug on the computer, rip out the hard drive, and destroy it immediately. (Okay, maybe you can leave it powered up for the time it takes to back up your documents, &c., but no longer. It's hammer time.)
  • He Should Argue (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Derosian (943622) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:59AM (#30335948) Homepage Journal
    Hasn't the music industry spent billions of dollars in advertisement and legal fees trying to convince us illegal downloading of music harms the music industry?

    If so we should be thanking this man for harming the supporters of child pornography. Even if it was unintentional and immediately deleted.

    Now I am going to destroy any credibility I had by quoting Captain Jean-Luc Picard. "I don't know how to communicate this, or even if it is possible. But the question of justice has concerned me greatly of late. And I say to any creature who may be listening, there can be no justice so long as laws are absolute. Even life itself is an exercise in exceptions. "
  • by Em Ellel (523581) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:20PM (#30336172)

    As much as I think child porn is bad (including possession), I think US law, for better or for worse, is built upon giving individual rights to protect themselves from self-incrimination, otherwise the legal system can run amok - as evidenced by this case (if we choose to believe the guy).

    So I kinda like the Neal Stephenson approach of having a strong magnetic field in the door frame wipe any drive passing through it. Surely in this day and age of portable electronics it may cause some issues, but not unresolvable ones ;-)

  • by 2PAIRofACES (302747) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:34PM (#30336290)

    I have to assume this guy is not guilty, not because of the presumption of innocence, but rather by the lack of accessible cp on his computer. Pedophiles don't just quit cold turkey, and even if he is a pedophile, quit cold turkey (doesn't happen), hey great, he's fixed his problem on his own. Going with that:

    Where does the government keep finding 12 morons to vote guilty in the jury box? I know this particular guy's case isn't going to a jury, but his lawyer seems to think he's screwed if he does. With easy to explain facts like this, both the DA (who wouldn't bring charges that would hurt his win %) and defense thinks there is a high likely hood of conviction? Are you kidding me?

    And how many CRAZY guilty verdicts have we read about? Why are juries stacked with idiots too stupid to see that they could just as likely be in the defendant's seat for a multitude of offenses?

    Quick side story: *all numbers, except age are fudged to prevent recrimination* I'm 32 (so far so good on my plan to outlive Jesus) and have been on a Jury 1 time. It was a drug charge, which I kinda figured out during jury selection based on the questions I was asked, so I shaped my answers accordingly. It ended up being a trial of a 19 year old kid found with 5 marijuana plants in a "grow box" (nice setup, bought online for like 2k, could of built his own for 800). The prosecution presented their case, the defense only called the defendant, who swore up and down that they were only for personal use (we're not in a medical marijuana state), and the defendant pretty much begged for mercy. I swear at this point one of my co-juror's started to tear up. Final arguments came and went, and then the Judge, the last arbiter of law said (paraphrasing here) that we were only to determine if he possessed the plants, and if so, to find him guilty.

    We got back to the jury room and as I'm told we're not supposed to do, but always gets done regardless, we took a vote. 11-1. IANAL but I believed without knowing that if I gave my real reason for not wanting to convict that I'd be replaced (we had 2 alternates). I've never had to choose my wording so carefully, meanwhile the rest of the Jury kept saying things like : "the judge said we had to vote guilty" and "It doesn't matter if I think he did anything wrong, the judge said he did wrong" (that last one, I SWEAR TO GOD, was uttered word for word, i will never forget a syllable). It took 2 hours of carefully worded analogies to sway 1 other to my side, from there we got to 3 in 10 minutes, at 4, the whole room switched. Let me say that again, at 4 ppl, the remaining 8 switched over, not out of a sense of civic duty, but because they were tired and wanted to go home. WITH A MAN'S LIFE IN THE BALANCE.

    When we returned our verdict, the judge didn't look at what the foreman wrote (he opened it, looked at its general direction and refolded it), when the foreman not guilty, the Judge damn near fell out of his chair, the DA did a real life triple take, and the defense attorney looked like a deer in headlights. The point is that all 3 professionals INCLUDING the defense attorney, were shocked that the jury failed to rubber stamp guilty on this guy.

    After we were relieved 4 of the other jurors came to me and admitted thru conversation that they smoked pot and didn't want to vote guilty at all, but thought they had to because the judge had told them to. As they were talking, all I could think was, "So this is how democracy ends, with sheep"

    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:31PM (#30336890)

      Interesting - it sounds like what the judge did was correct - he instructed the jury on what the law was, that is that possession of the drug made the defendant guilty. What came out of the jury room was jury nullification (nullification of the law), that is the jury declared innocence despite the law. Supposedly this is quite a rare event.

      There is a long history of jury nullification, some of it quite ugly during periods where racial discrimination was the way things were.

      This one of the most controversial areas of law, and an area that all citizens who go to serve on juries should be aware of because it WONT be brought up in the courtroom. However the roots of it go very deep into English Common Law, and because the court cannot punish the jury for its verdicts and we have protection against double jeopardy, jury nullification is in fact a power of any jury.

    • by Tacvek (948259) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @02:45PM (#30337526) Journal

      Interesting tale of jury nullification.

      I think the fact that the average jury is generally considered to consists of 12 people who were not smart enough to get out of jury duty to be the real problem. Then combined with the fact that the jury selection process is generally designed to weed out anybody with any level of technical expertise that might be able to contradict an expert witness, and the system is clearly broken.

      I know for a fact that if I am every on a jury, the other jurors will hate me. I will insist on being the foreman, and work from there. Except in the case of jury nullification, the process will then proceed by looking at the jury instructions to determine the facts in dispute.

      Choosing the order carefully such that the minimum number of facts need to be considered, and for each fact we will determine the truth and the level of uncertainty. A guilt verdict will be rendered if and only if there is a sequence of facts found true beyond reasonable doubt such that these facts indicate that the person is indeed guilty.

      If necessary combined facts will be considered. For example there might be a reasonable level of doubt about facts A and B, but it might be clear beyond a reasonable doubt that at least one of the two is true. If it is the case that either being true may allow for a guilt verdict then such a combined fact may be considered. The final result will be a list of all facts that we have found to be true or false beyond a reasonable doubt in the course of attempting to find a path a facts that lead to guilt, or show that no such path exists.

      Very organized, very methodical, would drive the average apathetic jury nuts if there are a significant number of possible facts to consider.

      Of course, determining if the rest of the jury is at all sympathetic to jury nullification should probably come before of all that, as in that case, a less rigidly logical, and more emotional approach to determine if there is a good reason to ignore the law may be needed or desirable.

    • by halln (1180165) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @02:51PM (#30337588)
      Sounds like a good example where the Fully Informed Jury Association website should have been reviewed. From their site fija.org [fija.org]:

      "The primary function of the independent juror is not, as many think, to dispense punishment to fellow citizens accused of breaking various laws, but rather to protect fellow citizens from tyrannical abuses of power by government. The Constitution guarantees you the right to trial by jury. This means that government must bring its case before a jury of The People if government wants to deprive any person of life, liberty, or property. Jurors can say no to government tyranny by refusing to convict."
  • by MindPrison (864299) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:51PM (#30336456) Journal

    ...Imagine someone hating someone else (yes - that happens)

    that someone gets an idea based on White's misfortune:

    1) Send some kiddie porn images (or just family pictures of naked kids) to someone you hate
    2) Do it repeatedly a few times, just to make sure they land on his harddisk
    3) Secretly tip the Feds that he downloads child porn or has an interest in naked kids

    The feds seizes his harddisk, he says someone anonymous sent it to him, but it doesn't help him - because it could be a child porn ring - which he "perhaps" is a part of, and they found them deleted on his harddisk. He's basically screwed! You just killed a man.

  • by way2slo (151122) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @02:59PM (#30337678) Journal

    Just get a new HD. Why risk _everything_ when you can be in the free and clear for a very well spent $100 and a few hours re-install. You think that guy wouldn't pay $10,000 now to make all his troubles disappear??

    It's the unforgivable crime. If that stuff winds up on your drive, smash it, then toss it, and get a new one. Tell whoever that the HD died and you need a new one. Even if you have to put it on a charge card or borrow the money. Don't even mess around with shredders or wipe programs. Why take any chance at all??

  • Win,Win,Win (Score:5, Insightful)

    by b4upoo (166390) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:48PM (#30338124)

    What a victory for the tax payer. First we have the thrill of supporting some lard assed FBI personnel. Then we have the joy of paying for a trial as well as the prosecutor's time. And then for the next wonderful thrill we get to pay a huge sum to put this poor guy in prison! And then we get the absolute joy have having him on a sex offenders' list so that he will not be employable or able to get housing for the rest of his life which will trigger welfare and public support until the poor schmuck is dead.
                          So the guy gets his entire life trashed and the public gets a whopping expense. With a logic stream such as this one the people behind this kind of law should have been in charge of the war in Vietnam. Entire new definitions of victory abound!

"Why can't we ever attempt to solve a problem in this country without having a 'War' on it?" -- Rich Thomson, talk.politics.misc

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