When I have younger attorneys in the office or people with little or no criminal justice experience, I like to give them scenarios to see how they would defend the case. Often, and case that looks horrible for the defense may have a dozen holes in it when viewed more closely. Consider this example:
A Santa Ana podiatrist suspected of possessing more than 1,100 child pornography images on his office computer has been ordered to appear in court Thursday.
Pete Thomas, 58, of Long Beach could face a maximum sentence of three years in state prison and lifetime sex offender registration if convicted on child pornography charges, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.
On Oct. 15, a man from an imaging company installed a scanner on an office computer for Thomas, who worked at Coastline Podiatry in Santa Ana, authorities said.
The man, who authorities said noticed thumbnail images of young girls on the computer, told his supervisor and the incident was reported to the Santa Ana Police Department.
Wow, that looks pretty bad, doesn't it? Or does it?
- What do they mean that it was "his" computer? Was it in his office? Does he keep his door locked? Do others have access to it?
- Has he recently fired anyone from his office who would have motive to frame him by planting child porn on his computer?
- If these are "his" images, where did he get them? There should be emails or some other sort of evidence showing how the files got there, but there's no mention of that.
- Is he currently involved in litigation against a spouse? If so, she would have a huge motive to distract and handicap him in the divorce and custody battle by framing him for kiddie porn.
- He's a doctor. Wouldn't he be smart enough to not let a stranger work on a computer if he knew there was child pornography on it?
- Is this some of the same child pornography that has been passed around for decades? If so, the children in those photos (now adults) make a pretty penny suing people now. A wealthy podiatrist would make a juicy target for a frame-up and a lawsuit, wouldn't he? (Learn more here.)
I can see several ways how this guy isn't guilty of a thing. Guilty or not, he's going to need a lawyer who can think outside the box.
UPDATE: "Vicky" has appeared again, this time in a Georgia case where a man was sentenced to 1000 years. Here is what she wrote in the Mallory case:
A letter written a child rape victim from Washington, whose video was found on Mallory’s hard drive, was used as testimony against Mallory. “It feels like I’m being raped all over again.” said the victim in her letter, who is now attempting to make it through college. “I can never feel safe as long as those images are out there.”
The "child rape victim from Washington" is Kylie Freeman, a.k.a., "Vicky", who was raped on film by her biological father, Kenneth. He was later sentenced to 50 years for raping her, filming it, and posting it on the internet. Now, her videos are some of the most commonly-downloaded child pornography in the world.
Here is what she said in a recent case in California that involved possession of videos of her abuse:
The victim, in the victim-impact statements, described how knowing that others are searching the Internet and downloading videos featuring her made her “feel again like [she] was being abused.” The victim also told Judge Garcia how the fact that the defendant and others downloaded and viewed her video made her feel “sicker, … less safe, … more ashamed, and more humiliated.”
That guy got 4 years. So the guy who made the videos got 50. The guy in Georgia who possessed them got 1,000.
If her victim statements sound similar, they are. She's an experienced litigant. "Vicky" goes for the wallet:
For the young woman at the center of the Vicky series, offering an impact statement is part of a two-pronged legal approach seeking some relief for her past. When people are convicted in federal court of possessing pornographic images of her, she files motions to receive damages, her lawyer, Carol L. Hepburn, said.
She is seeking about $1 million to date for counseling, lost wages, extra educational costs and evidence gathering, Ms. Hepburn said. So far, her client has filed for restitution in more than 200 federal criminal cases across the country, and received more than 50 orders for payment — though not much money has come in because many defendants have little means.
So on top of prison, downloading the "Vicky" series could land someone in bankruptcy.