Articles Posted in Child Pornography

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While the First Amendment protects the right of adults to watch and produce pornography, this right is not without limitations. For example, child pornography is not protected under the First Amendment and is always illegal. Child pornography is any visual depiction of a minor, aka a person under 18 years old, engaging in a sexual activity. In recent years the federal government has become more and more focused on prosecuting those who have allegedly produced, distributed, or viewed child pornography.

One of the most recent child pornography cases in Illinois involves a Yorkville man who was recently sentenced to 12 years in prison for a child pornography conviction and for violating the Sex Offender Registration Act, reports MyInforms.com. As the man had been convicted of child pornography related crimes three times before, the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office conducted a compliance check in December 2015 to confirm that the Yorkville man was in compliance with the Sex Offender Registration Act. MyInforms.com notes that via this compliance check the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force discovered that approximately 100 images depicting child pornography had been downloaded to the man’s personal computer. After obtaining a search warrant, investigators found that the man was illegally in possession of images showing children younger than 13 years old engaged in sexual acts. The man was charged with five counts of possessing child pornography depicting a child less than 13 years, which is a Class 1 felony.

The Sex Offender Registration Act

file2261243267180Illinois is extremely hard on those convicted of sex crimes. In many cases, the law requires those convicted of sex crimes to register on the Illinois Sex Offender Registry, which is a public database. For any number of reasons, people fail to register or renew their registration, sometimes through no fault of their own. So, what happens if you do not register?

Failure to Register as a Sex Offender in Illinois

Failing to register as a sex offender in Illinois, or failing to renew your registration, means you can be charged with a Class 3 felony. If it is the second or subsequent time that you failed to register as a sex offender, or failed to renew your registration as a sex offender, then you can be charged with a Class 2 felony. This means that you will be required to spend a minimum of seven days in jail and pay a minimum fine of $500, although a Class 2 felony could carry a sentence of three to seven years.

A Wheaton man was arrested in late January and charged with four counts of possession of child pornography. A forensic examination of the defendant’s home computer, which was seized following the issuance of a search warrant, uncovered evidence of child pornography that had been downloaded to, and distributed from, the computer.

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Defense of DuPage County Possession of Child Pornography

In Illinois, a defendant is guilty of possession of child pornography if he knowingly possesses any visual depiction of a child engaged in a sexual act. Possession of child pornography is a specific intent crime. If the defendant did not intend to have the pornography in his possession – if it was obtained without his knowledge – then he cannot be found guilty, as “knowingly” is a specific element of the crime.

In defending against a possession of child pornography case, it is extremely important to examine all of the facts to determine if any of the evidence raises the possibility that the defendant did not knowingly possess the photographs or other visual depictions. A forensic examination of the defendant’s computer by computer expert, independent of the police and prosecutor’s examination(s), would need to be conducted to help answer the following questions. A “yes” answer for any of them would raise reasonable doubt as to whether the defendant knowingly came into possession of child pornography:

  • Did a third-party have access to the defendant’s computer?
  • Were the pornographic images purposely downloaded, or were they unknowingly installed as part of an adware or malware attack?
  • Were the images installed via an e-mail attachment that was opened?
  • Were the images downloaded after clicking on a link in an e-mail?
  • Were the images obtained from a site that a reasonable person would have known had child pornography?

The police investigation also found that the images on the defendant’s computer were distributed. A person is guilty of distribution if he knowingly distributes, or offers to distribute, any visual depiction of a child engaged in any sexual act. Again, the defendant must have had knowledge that he was distributing pornographic images. It could not have been done on accident or through no fault of his own.

A complete examination of the defendant’s computer by an independent computer expert would need to be done to help answer the following questions:

  • Did anybody have access to the defendant’s computer at the time the photos were distributed?
  • Does anybody else know the defendant’s login and password for his computer and/or e-mail account?
  • Was the defendant’s e-mail system hacked?
  • Did the defendant’s computer contain any spam, malware, adware, or other virus laden program that sent the e-mails without his knowledge?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it would raise reasonable doubt that the defendant had the requisite knowledge to satisfy that specific element of the crime. The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, P.C., has access to a team of independent computer experts who will thoroughly examine the defendant’s computer, as well as review the police and prosecution experts’ report, to determine if any evidence supports the theory that the defendant had no knowledge that the pornographic images were downloaded to, or distributed by, his computer.

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A Chicago police sergeant was relieved of his duties after being charged with one count each of predatory criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a 9-year-old girl. The alleged victim is the daughter of the sergeant’s co-worker, and defense attorneys claim that the nature of the relationship between the accused and the alleged victim’s mother will make clear why allegations were made.

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False Allegations of Child Sex Abuse

The defendant’s attorneys have not yet elaborated on the nature of their client’s relationship with the victim’s mother. We can assume, however, that the defense will attempt to prove that she is, in some way, a jilted lover – that the two either had a prior romantic relationship that the defendant ended, or that he previously rebuffed her advances – or a disgruntled employee, and is retaliating with false allegations of sexual abuse.

It may seem impossible that anyone would make false allegations of sexual assault as retaliation. Punishments for a sexual assault conviction are serious, involving lengthy prison sentences and sex offender registration requirements. Even the charges themselves, whether they are ultimately dropped or if the case ends in acquittal, carry a stigma that can forever damage the accused’s professional and personal reputation. Somebody would have to carry a huge grudge to falsely accuse another person of sexual assault.

Unfortunately, false allegations of sexual assault are not uncommon. They arise far too frequently in hotly contested child custody cases, as a way to ensure that custody is not awarded to the father. If the child is young, she is susceptible to being coached or having false memories of abuse planted. They will often repeat the false story because they want to please the mother (or whichever party is coaching them).

In a case of false allegations, there are two victims – the accused, and the child who is put in the middle. In these cases, the defense attorney must walk a fine line between zealously defending his client and not causing further harm to the child. In this particular case, there are two children who may have been coached – the alleged victim and her brother, who was the first to witness the alleged abuse and notify his mother.

In cases such as these, where there appears to be some type of bad blood between the accused and the child victim’s parent, it is imperative for the defense attorney to not only have a clear understanding of the relationship between the two adults, but to also explore the mother’s background to determine whether there is a pattern of false allegations of any kind against former lovers or co-workers.

An independent evaluation of the alleged victim by a child psychologist trained in treating not only victims of child sexual abuse, but also those who have been coached to make false allegations, is also vital, especially if the statement the alleged victim made to the authorities was done so in the presence of her mother. A review of the victim’s statement to police, along with a viewing of any tape recording made of the interview, is also necessary, in order to see if the mother was present and coached the child in any way.

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Hundreds of pictures and more than a dozen videos found on a Chicago man’s computer have led to charges of possession of child pornography, a class 2 felony. If convicted, the charge carries a mandatory minimum of four to 15 years in prison, or 30 years if any of the images are of children under age 13. Conviction of possession of child pornography also requires registration as a sex offender.

Illinois Possession of Child Pornography

An Illinois resident commits the crime of possession of child pornography if he has in his possession any film, video or photographs (“photos”) of children under the age of 18 participating in any type of real or simulated sexual act. The person must know that the photos in his possession depict sexual acts, and he must know, or reasonably should know, that the children depicted are under the age of 18.

Defense against Illinois Charge of Possession of Child Pornography

Just because the police located images or videos depicting child pornography on your computer or other electronic device does not mean you have no defense. Evidence of photos on your computer are just that – proof that the images exist on the device. As discussed above, conviction for possession of child pornography requires that the defendant knew that the images were child pornography, and that the people depicted were under the age of 18. Without proving both of these facts, the prosecution cannot make a case against the defendant, and the result is an acquittal.

When building a defense against a Chicago charge of possession of child pornography, a defense attorney  will examine all of the evidence to determine whether the prosecution can prove that you knowingly possessed child pornography, and that you were aware that the persons depicted were children. When examining the evidence, a criminal defense attorney will consider:

  • Whether the search warrant was legally obtained and not based on false evidence;
  • Whether the images were placed on the defendant’s computer during a time that the computer was in his possession and control. For example, an attorney’s forensic experts will examine computer records to determine whether the images could have been placed on the computer following the defendant’s arrest, or when it was at a computer repair shop;
  • Whether anybody else had access to the defendant’s computer and could have downloaded the photos;
  • Whether it can be proven that the defendant actually looked at the files, or was in any way aware they were on his computer. For example, could they have been downloaded on to his computer as part of a Trojan horse, malware or other computer hacking program;
  • Whether a reasonable person would have known that the people depicted in the photos were under the age of 18, and;
  • Whether it can be proven that the defendant downloaded or otherwise placed the images on his computer or other electronic device.

In any criminal case, our goal is to obtain an acquittal or outright dismissal of the charges. If, after a careful review of all of the evidence, either of those scenarios seem unlikely, then our goal is to work with the prosecution to win a reduction in charges or enter in to a plea agreement. Conviction on a charge of possession of child pornography is serious, and the Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, P.C., will work diligently to achieve the best possible outcome.  Continue reading