Our client was charged with possession of child pornography after being caught up in a federal and state child pornography Internet sting operation entitled “Round-Up.”
In this operation, federal and state law enforcement agencies monitored various peer-to-peer file sharing sites waiting for known videos and images to be accessed or downloaded. Once the target files were accessed or downloaded, the law enforcement agents then traced the IP address to determine the user’s location.
In this case, our client was utilizing the Internet from his Air Force lodging room at Cannon New Mexico to download the alleged child porn. Law enforcement then recorded all of the various actions of our client while the alleged child pornography was being downloaded and obtained a search warrant to search his lodging room and computer.
After the search warrant was executed, his computer was seized and sent to the forensic lab for review and analysis. The results of the search confirmed the initial observations of law enforcement, that his personal computer was used to download images and videos of child pornography.
After being retained on the case, we realized that the facts in this case were undoubtedly stacked against us, so we attacked the weakest link in the government’s case – the initial search authorization.
Our claim was that law enforcement agents did not have the right to surreptitiously monitor the activities of our client and then use that monitoring to obtain a search authorization for the computer.
If we were able to get all of the evidence suppressed, the government’s case would fall apart. We pressed this issue, as well as other potential defenses in this case, and tried to leverage a favorable pre-trial agreement with the government.
The prosecutors, however, would not agree to any plea deal for less than 5 years of confinement. The week before trial, we changed our plea from Not Guilty to Guilty and put on an extensive case in extenuation and mitigation without a deal in place for the client, in order to give him the absolute best possible outcome.
After a full day in court, the military judge only sentenced our client to 6 months confinement and a BCD. Given the typical sentence for child pornography and the five-year “deal” that was offered by the government, this was a fantastic result.