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March 2012
Tim Bilecki

Sailor Confesses to Child Pornography, Gets 12-Month Sentence in Plea Deal

Possession of Child Pornography
Joint Base Pearl Harbor- Hickam, Hawaii
Navy Petty Officer Third Class - E-4
12 month plea agreement negotiated on "courthouse steps."

A Navy Petty Officer stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was charged with possession of child pornography on his computer while he was underway on a submarine.

Another Sailor who was sharing a room with the Petty Officer during a liberty call found child pornography on the Petty Officer’s computer. After the pornography was discovered, his computers were seized and sent off for forensic examination by the Defense Computer Forensic Labs (DCFL), a process that took almost half a year.

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After nearly a year of investigation on the part of the government, the Petty Officer was charged with multiple specifications of possession of child pornography. Tim Bilecki, an Article 134 UCMJ child pornography defense lawyer, was retained as civilian defense counsel.  In order to stack the deck against the accused, the government demanded an immediate Article 32 hearing so that the defense would not have time to prepare ,even though the government had been investigating the case for nearly a year.

Bilecki requested a computer forensic expert be appointed to the defense team so the defense could review the evidence in the case. The government denied that request. The government also refused to allow the defense access to the evidence because it included contraband, even though the government permitted itself to send the evidence to anyone it felt could help win its case.

Even without access to all the evidence and a defense computer expert, we fought the charges at the Article 32.  The defense began building a case to show that our client was not the individual who actually put the child pornography on the computer and that his multi-hour recorded confession was coerced and not corroborated by the evidence.

The government referred the charges to a general court martial after the Article 32 hearing and continued to deny the defense access to the evidence in the case. Court martial defense attorney Tim Bilecki fought back and was able to have a digital forensic examiner appointed to the defense team.

While the government still refused to send the evidence directly to our expert, we were able to have our expert allowed to review it at a nearby CID office. We fought this case for months and were relentless in our determination to take this case to trial, regardless of the multi-hour confession by the accused

Literally, on the day before trial, because of the pressure we put on the government, we were offered a favorable plea agreement; the government agreed to limit our client’s confinement to only 12 months.  He was facing over 30 years. Our client accepted this plea agreement, and his sentence was reduced to 12 months pursuant to the plea deal.  The initial plea agreement in this case prior to the Article 32 hearing was 48 months.

This case is just another example of why, even when the odds and evidence are squarely stacked against you, it is often best to fight the charges until the end. When the government knows your attorney will not back down and will take a case to trial, that is often when the best plea deals are given. In other military jurisdictions throughout the Pacific, a 12-month deal for a substantial child pornography case is generally unheard of.

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