Norman Miller of the MertroWest Daily News reports the story of an Ashland man. According to the article members of the Massachusetts Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (which usually consists of the State Police working in conjunction with local law enforcement and the Attorney General’s Office) were able to identify child pornography that was being traded on a file sharing network.
The article doesn’t say how the police were able to track down the man, but in the majority of these cases the police are able to obtain the IP address of the person using the file sharing network. Once police have the IP address they either get a search warrant or subpoena for the records of internet service provider associated with the IP address. From the internet service provider they get the subscriber name and address that was using that particular IP address at the time it was observed to be downloading child pornography. From there, all police need to do is get a search warrant for that address and go knock on the door. (as an aside, just a tip to regular readers, make sure to always password protect your wireless router otherwise someone can pirate your wireless signal, if someone does and downloads child pornography you can get an unpleasant knock on your door)
According to the article the police found over 3,000 images and videos of child pornography in the home. Police also indicated they seized 15 different electronic devices, and have not finished searching those items.
As of now, the man is charged with possession of child pornography. Possession of child pornography is certainly a serious charge in and of itself. The maximum penalty for possession of child pornography in Massachusetts is 5 years in state prison. Any conviction for possession of child pornography requires the defendant to register as a sex offender, regardless of whether or not he or she is sentenced to jail time.
As serious as the man’s case is already, he will face significantly increased penalties if prosecutors bring new charges of dissemination of child pornography. The article state prosecutors may pursue the dissemination charge because the man admitted that others had downloaded some of the images remotely from his computer. Any defendant convicted of dissemination of child pornography faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in state prison and can be sentenced to as many as 20 years in state prison. In addition there is also a requirement that the defendant register as a sex offender.
In cases like these often times the most important question in the case relates to the police procedure used in the investigation. Prosecutors must show a court that the police followed proper procedures in obtaining information and searching the man’s home. If the man’s constitutional rights were violated in the search of his home there is potential the evidence against him could be suppressed.