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March 2017
Tim Bilecki

1st Amendment Exonerates E-5 for Explicit Anime, Sentence Reduced

Possession of Prohibited Anime and Possession and Distribution of Child Pornography
Osan AFB, Korea
Air Force Staff Sergeant – E-5
Not guilty regarding anime porn, not guilty of distribution of child pornography and guilty by acceptations and substitution of possession of child pornography. Sentenced to one year in confinement, reduced to six months and a bad conduct discharge.

In one of the most unique pornography cases Bilecki Law Group has ever tried, an Air Force Staff Sergeant stationed in Korea was charged with possession and distribution of child pornography and alleged illegal anime images after the government observed “files of interest” being transferred to his IP address.  

Unbeknownst to most service members, military law enforcement monitors various IP addresses using software called “grid cop,” looking for files of interest being transferred from one IP to another.  Here, this led the NCIS to conduct a search and seizure of the Sergeant’s digital media.  

No live images or videos of child pornography were found on Sergeant’s computers, but remnants of files that may have been child pornography were found in the unallocated space on the hard drive – meaning those files were deleted. The government also found Japanese anime, manga and hentai on the computer and charged the SSgt with possession and distribution of child pornography for the files found in allocated space as well as the anime files which were saved on the computer.    

Immediately after being retained, Bilecki’s Article 134 UCMJ child pornography defense team utilized its own defense investigator – who is also a certified digital forensic examiner – to do a complete review of all the digital media in the case.  This review alone took over 100 person-hours.

Bilecki learned that our client was using peer-to-peer file-sharing software to look for and download Japanese hentai, manga and anime.  It also showed that in the process of mass downloading the anime, child pornography may have also been inadvertently downloaded.  We also learned that the user downloaded all the files using one computer and then transferred the files to another computer. Once the downloaded files were on the second computer, the hentai, manga and anime were saved and cataloged, and any suspected files of child pornography were deleted – placing them in unallocated space.  

The government continued to pursue charges for both the deleted child pornography and the anime, and the defense team took the case to trial.  At trial, Bilecki utilized Dr. Darlington, an expert in the field of Japanese anime, to provide context to the charged images, supporting the defense that a service member has a First Amendment right to possess anime, even if distasteful to some. We also utilized our computer forensic expert to show that our client was clearly not seeking out child pornography and was actively seeking Japanese anime and may have inadvertently downloaded child pornography during the mass downloads.

The case was tried by a military judge, and our client was found not guilty of all charges and specifications related to the Japanese anime and not guilty of distribution of child pornography. The judge, however, found our client guilty by exceptions and substitutions for possessing certain images of child pornography.  The basis for the judge’s findings on this charge was that our client maintained dominion and control of the files when they were transferred from the download machine to the other computer.  The military judge sentenced our client to 12 months of confinement and a bad conduct discharge.  Clemency was later granted, reducing the sentence by 6 months. Notably, at the moment when the court martial attorney, Tim Bilecki, was retained, the plea deal on the table was 4 years of confinement.

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