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United States Section of

Regulation of Child Pornography on the Internet

Cases and Materials related to Child Pornography on the Internet

Compiled by Yaman Akdeniz

Cite as: Yaman Akdeniz, Regulation of Child Pornography on the Internet: Cases and Materials, at Last updated January 2001. Copyright Yaman Akdeniz, 1996-2001. All Rights Reserved. No part of this database can be copied without our permission. Journalists and researchers please contact at for permission to use materials from this database of cases and materials.

This section of Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) deals with the regulation of child pornography on the Internet under various jurisdictions. 
These pages are regularly updated.


Ananova News, US court legalises virtual paedophilia, 16 April, 2002

The US Supreme Court has overthrown a congressional ban on virtual paedophilia. It ruled the First Amendment protects pornography or other sexual images that only appear to depict real children engaged in sex. The judgment is a victory for both pornographers and legitimate artists such as filmmakers. They argued that a broad ban on simulated child sex could make it a crime to depict a sex scene like those in the recent movies Traffic or Lolita. The law was challenged by a trade association for pornographers.

It barred sexually explicit material that "appear(s) to be a minor" or that is advertised in a way that "conveys the impression" that a minor was involved in its creation. The law was Congress' answer to then-emerging computer technology that allowed the computer alteration of innocent images of real children, or the creation from scratch of simulated children posed in sexual acts. The law was an expansion of existing bans on child pornography. Congress had justified the wider ban on grounds that while no real children were harmed in creating the material, real children could be harmed by feeding the prurient appetites of paedophiles or child molesters. The Free Speech Coalition, the pornographers' trade group, said it opposes child pornography but that the law could snare legitimate, if unsavoury, films and photos produced by its members. The group did not challenge a section of the law that banned the use of identifiable children in computer-altered sexual images. The Clinton and Bush administrations defended the law in court.

See 18 USC 2252 which makes it a federal offence to knowingly receive child pornography. Child pornography is defined as: "any visual depiction of "sexually explicit conduct" involving children" by 18 USC 2252 (a) (2) (A).

See also 18 USC 2251 is also closely related which makes it illegal to advertise child pornography.

See New York v. Ferber 458 U.S. 747 (1982) which held that States can prohibit the depiction of minors engaged in sexual conduct. The Court also found that the Miller v. California 413 U.S. 15 (1973).obscenity standard did not apply to child pornography because child pornography is per se obscene.

See Osborne v. Ohio 495 U.S. 103 (1990) where the court upheld a statute making it illegal to possess child pornography.


None of the US federal or state laws deal with so called pseudo-photographs. It is not illegal to create or possess pornographic images of children by means of computers. Child Pornography Prevention Act 1995 (HR n.a., section 1237) sponsored by Sen. Hatch (R-UT), Abraham (R-MI), Grassley (R-IA), and Thurmond (R-SC) was introduced to criminalize material that depicts children engaging in sexually-explicit conduct whether or not the material was produced with children or entirely without computer. The Bill is in the judiciary committee (September 1995).

Pseudo-photographs will be subject to the Miller obscenity test and other federal laws dealing with obscenity but not child pornography. It will be up to the defendant to prove that the creation of the pictures did not involve minors.


The bill originally introduced by Senator Hatch, was included in part of a broad spending Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, 1997 which was signed into law by President Clinton. It had passed the US Senate on September 30, 1996 just hours before the midnight deadline for the start of fiscal year 1997.

It has been amended with a Hatch-Bidden substitute but there has been only small changes. The new legislation expands the definition of child pornography. Section 3 of the 1996 Act, adds a new subsection to 18 U.S.C. 2256(8) which now defines child pornography as:

"any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, , video, picture, drawing or computer or computer-generated image or picture, which is produced by electronic, mechanical or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where:

The term `identifiable minor’ would be identified in 18 U.S .C. 2256(9) to mean a minor who is capable of being recognised as an actual person by, for example, his face or other distinguishing feature or physical characteristic, although a prosecutor would not be required to prove the minor’s actual identity.

The new 18 U.S.C. 2252A sets mandatory prison sentences of at least 15 years for production and distribution of child pornography. The act also includes and makes subject to the same provison, the receivers of child pornography. 5 years for possession offences and life imprisonment for repear offenders convicted of sexual abuse of a minor.

Section 2 of the 1996 Act includes important findings related to pseudo-photographs and explains why it should be illegal as:

"Computer-generated child pornography results in many of the same types of harm, and poses the same danger to the well-being of children, as photographic child pornography, and provide a compelling governmental interest for prohibiting the production, distribution, possessing, sale or viewing of all forms of child pornography, including computer-generated depictions which are, or appear to be, of children engaging in sexually explicit conduct."

The 1996 Act may be subject to a legal challenge by some of the civil liberties groups such as ACLU because according to their view, the Act would be unconstitutional because it outlaws images produced without any involvement by an actual child.  

FREE SPEECH v RENO, U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, (97-16536) - Decembert 1999

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California Samuel Conti, District Judge, Presiding
Argued and Submitted March 10, 1998--San Francisco, California,
Filed December 17, 1999
Before: Warren J. Ferguson and Sidney R. Thomas, Circuit Judges, and Donald W. Molloy,1 District Judge.
Opinion by Judge Molloy; Dissent by Judge Ferguson

The court of appeals affirmed a judgment of the district court in part and reversed in part. The court held that the Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA) is unconstitutional to the extent that it proscribes computer images that do not involve the use of real children in their production or dissemination.

Section 2556(8) of the CPPA defines child pornography as any visual depiction, including computer images, of sexually explicit conduct. Subsection (B) bans sexually explicit depictions that "appear to be" minors; subsection (D) prohibits depictions that "convey the impression" that they contain sex-ually explicit portrayals of minors.

When a statute restricts speech by its content, it is pre-sumptively unconstitutional. The CPPA fails both tests for subjective neutrality: it expressly aims to curb a particular category of expression (child pornography) by singling out that type of expression based on its content, and banning it. Blanket suppression of an entire type of speech is by its very nature a content-discriminating act. The CPPA is not a time, place, or manner regulation.

The statute criminalizes even those materials that do not involve a recognizable minor. While the government is given greater leeway in regulating child pornography, materials or depictions of sexual conduct that do not involve live performance or visual reproductions of live performances retain First Amendment protection.

Congress has no compelling interest in regulating sexually explicit materials that do not contain visual images of actual children.

Any victimization of children that may arise from pedophiles’ sexual responses to pornography apparently depicting children engaging in explicit sexual activity is not a sufficiently compelling justification for the CPPA’s speech restrictions. To hold otherwise would enable the criminalization of figments of creative technology that do not involve any human victim in their creation or presentation.

While computer-generated images of child pornography are repugnant, they do not involve real children, and there is no demonstrated basis to link such images with harm to real children. Absent this nexus, the CPPA does not withstand constitutional scrutiny.

The CPPA’s criminalizing of material that "appears to be a minor" and "conveys the impression" that the material is a minor engaged in explicit sexual activity, is void for vagueness. It does not give the person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited, and fails to provide explicit standards for those who must apply it, with the attendant dangers of arbitrary and discriminatory application.

The Supreme Court has restricted the regulation of pornographic material involving minors because of the harm caused by its creation, not necessarily because of the consequences of its creation. The government’s interest in prohibiting computer-generated child pornographic depictions is not the same as its interest in prohibiting child pornography produced by using actual children. In the latter instance there may be harm to a child. In the former there is no harm to an actual child if no real human is used in the production of the material. What is left is an inconsistent effort to regulate the consequences of abusing children to make such images, even though no children are used in its production. [16] The CPPA’s inclusion of constitutionally protected activity makes it overbroad.

See the full judgment through

The 1996 Act upheld by a Federal Judge - August 1997

The US Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 which bans computer-generated sexual images of children and porn featuring adults who are depicted as minors was upheld by a federal judge on the 12th of August 1997. Rejecting arguments by sex film distributors and the American Civil Liberties Union, U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti said the new law protects children from sexual exploitation without violating freedom of speech.  

"Even if no children are involved in the production of sexually explicit materials, the devastating ... effect that such materials have on society and the well-being of children merits the regulation of such images," Conti wrote in the first court ruling on the law’s validity.

He dismissed the ACLU’s fears that the law could criminalize a film of "Romeo and Juliet" or a doctor’s sex education manual. Only pictures that are marketed as child pornography are covered by the law, Conti said.

A spokesman for the film distributors said they planned to appeal.  ACLU lawyer Ann Brick, who filed a supporting brief, said the law was broader than Conti made it out to be. Congress did not merely ban computer-generated images of children in sexual activities, but also declared that it was "illegal to use young-looking adults if we don’t like the way you marketed it," Brick said. She said the rationale used by Congress and Conti—that the images would help molesters recruit young victims—would apply equally to "literature that describes sex in a way that makes it seem beautiful."

Justice Department spokesman Joe Krovisky declined comment.

The law, passed last September, enlarged the federal definition of child pornography, which previously covered only erotic pictures of actual minors. Although such material may not be legally obscene, its prohibition has been upheld by the Supreme Court to prevent sexual exploitation of minors. The new law applies to computer-generated images as well as films and photographs. It bans any visual depiction that "is, or appears to be, of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct." Distributors of sexually explicit pictures of adults who appear to be minors can avoid conviction if they can show that they did not advertise or present the material in a way that would "convey the impression" that it showed sexual acts by a minor. That defense would not apply to computer simulations.

The lawsuit, filed by a group of more than 600 producers and distributors of "adult-oriented materials" calling themselves the Free Speech Coalition, argued that the law was so broadly worded that it could cover any picture in which an adult portrays a minor engaged in sexual activity. Terms like "appears to be" and "convey the impression" are so loose that it would be difficult to know what material was illegal, the suit said. But Conti said any ambiguity in those terms "can be resolved by examining whether the work was marketed and advertised as child pornography." He rejected the ACLU’s argument that the only justification for a child pornography ban recognized by the Supreme Court is the prevention of harm to children used in the production of such material.

Quoting congressional language, Conti said such laws can also seek to stop molesters from whetting their appetite with pornography and using it to break down their victims’ resistance—effects that do not depend on the use of actual children in the production. The law "is designed to counteract the effect that such (material) has on its viewers, on children, and to society as a whole, and is not intended to regulate or outlaw the ideas themselves," the judge said.

See THE FREE SPEECH COALITION, et al., Plaintiffs,  v.  JANET RENO, et al., Defendants.  No. C 97-0281 SC ORDER RE MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT FILED AUG 12 1997, Richard W. Wieking, Clerk, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California.

See Ashley Craddock, Activists Down on Child Porn Act Decision, Wired News, 13 August, 1997.  

Appeal Brief Filed in Child Pornography Prevention Act 1996 - September 1997

Free-speech advocates filed a federal appeals-court brief  in an effort to overturn the controversial 1996 Act. Arguing that “sexually explicit, non-obscene speech is protected by the First Amendment,” William Bennett Turner, a First Amendment attorney, filed a brief with the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the constitutionality of the 1996 Child Pornography Protection Act.

US District Court Judge Samuel Conti in August ruled to uphold the law that criminalizes images that appear to be of children in sexually explicit poses. The images are illegal “even if they are adults that look young or are computer-generated images,” Turner noted. His friend-of-the-court brief was filed on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the Periodical & Book Association of America, and Feminists For Free Expression, in support of the principal plaintiff in the case, the Free Speech Coalition.

The brief argues that the basis for Conti’s decision, which takes into consideration the secondary effects of images that appear to be of children, is not constitutional. “Even if no children are involved in the production of sexually explicit materials, the devastating ... effect that such materials have on society and the well-being of children merits the regulation of such images,” Conti wrote in his August decision.

Turner responded in his brief: “The secondary effects rationale is extremely hazardous to free speech, because it has no limits and can justify any kind of speech restriction. The government and others who wish to suppress or restrict certain speech can always think up undesirable ‘secondary effects’ believed to follow from the content of speech at issue.”

US Judge Attacks the Child Pornography Protection Act of 1996 - April 1998

A federal judge in Portland, in a precedent-setting ruling, has struck down as unconstitutional a portion of a new federal law, the Child Pornography Protection Act of 1996 aimed at regulating computer generated child pornography on the Internet. Judge Gene Carter of the U.S. District in Portland, Maine, said the provision stretched too far by criminalizing sexual images of children who aren’t real or adults who look youthful. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Gene Carter dismisses charges of child pornography possession against David Hilton, a 48-year-old who says he is a crusader against kiddie porn, and never should have been charged.

"Its incorporated definition of child pornography is constitutionally invalid," he concluded in his ruling. "The statute impacts a significant amount of adult pornography featuring adults who appear youthful,’’ Carter wrote. "The court concludes that expression involving such adults will be chilled by the subjective language of the statute.

In his decision issued March 27, Carter concluded the new law is necessary to combat the harmful effects of child pornography. Peadophiles and child molesters do not make a distinction between sexually explicit images of children and young adults. But the judge agreed that the statute, as it pertains to the definition of child pornography, is too broad Carter’s ruling contradicts that of a federal judge in California, who last fall upheld the law as constitutional after a civil challenge by free speech advocates. The case is now before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Carter’s ruling flies in the face of U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti’s ruling in a civil case in San Francisco last August, which upheld the 1996 Child Pornography Prevention Act. Conti ruled that Congress had a right to ban "fake" child porn. The US Justice Department defends the law on grounds that fake child pornography can "incite the same reaction in pedophiles." But the adult film industry, which challenged the law in California, argues that the child pornography statute was designed to protect minors--not adults dressed up as youngsters, for example.

Carter’s ruling also is expected to be challenged in the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. The Free Speech Coalition appealed the California ruling and is awaiting a decision.

"If it ends up there is disagreement among the circuit courts, this would be the type of case the Supreme Court takes on," Jeffrey J. Douglas, a lawyer with the Free Speech Coalition, told the Associated Press. "Then this could turn out to be a landmark case."

US Child Pornography cases involving the Internet

The Operation Long Arm (1993). (Reported in Edward E. Cavazos & Gavino Morin, Cyberspace and the Law: Your Rights and Duties in the On-Line World, 1994 MIT Press, page 102.)

US v. Kimbrough No. 94-10088 (5th Cir. 11/09/95) where the defendant was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 72 months on charges involving receipt of child pornography, and possession of child pornography under 18 USC 2252.

US v. Chapman No. 94-2154 (1st Cir. 07/25/95) where an America On-Line user sent another user three pictures involving child pornography via e-mail.

Air Force captain court-martialed in computer pornography case

Reorted and taken from Pacific Air Forces News Service 17 Jul 1995

KADENA Air Base, Japan - A captain assigned to the 18th Logistics Group has been sentenced to be dismissed from the Air Force after being convicted by a general court-martial of conduct unbecoming an officer and violating federal anti-child pornography statutes. Along with the dismissal - the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge - Capt. Anthony Russell was sentenced to three months confinement and ordered to pay $2,858 per month for three months.

Russell pled not guilty to all charges, which included obtaining and storing pornographic computer graphics - including child pornography - from the Internet. The captain elected to be tried by a panel of officers in a trial that convened May 30 1995. According to base legal officials, Russell used Air Force computers and telecommunications equipment to locate and download the graphics files from the Internet over a two-month period. Officials said the captain is considered a computer expert and was the local area network administrator for the 18th LG.

During the four-day trial, prosecutors offered about 100 computer graphics into evidence, including four photographs a pediatrician confirmed depicted minors. Prosecutors also presented evidence showing how the captain used his office and home computers to "surf the Net" for sites containing pornographic computer image files. Other evidence at the trial indicated Russell would download images directly to his home computer or would use his office desktop computer to collect graphics and later copy them to his home computer.

The captain claimed he had stumbled across the graphics accidentally. However, computer experts from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Washington, D.C., showed how Russell had programmed his computers to seek out Internet sites with explicit names and file listings.

The captain's case will undergo an automatic review by the general court-martial convening authority. After this review, the case will receive an automatic review by the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals. Russell's case may also be reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. After completion of the appellate review - if the conviction is not overturned and/or the dismissal portion of the sentence is not modified - Secretary of the Air Force Sheila Widnall has to approve the dismissal before it is executed.

(I have no further details of this case as September 15, 1996. - Yaman Akdeniz)

Operation Rip Cord - September 1997

US Federal and state authorities have nabbed more than 120 people suspected of sending child pornography over the Internet, according to the New York state attorney general’s office. Authorities have also identified more than 1,500 people worldwide who are suspected of the same crime.

The ongoing probe, conducted by New York state attorney general Dennis Vacco’s office along with U.S. Customs officials and local authorities, already has resulted in 31 convictions nationwide, according to Vacco. Dubbed Operation Rip Cord, authorities conducting the 18-month sting found the alleged child pornographers by posing as trading partners online. America Online (AOL) assisted investigators in their pursuit.

Those referred to prosecutors in the New York-based sting include a school administrator, a school janitor using a stolen computer identity, a college student training to become a kindergarten teacher, a pizza deliverer, and a used car salesman.  Some have already pleaded guilty. The probe also lead to a Swiss couple who were arrested in Buffalo, New York, last month and accused of “masterminding an international child pornography manufacturing and distribution ring,” according to the state attorney general’s office.

The investigation was launched in 1996 by a team of former squad detectives in the Buffalo office eventually expanded to include Customs officials, who had launched a similar probe. As a result of the probe, investigators have amassed over 200,000 child porn images and seized over $137,000 in computer equipment.

Operation Innocent Images:

In September 1995, the FBI made several arrests and searched 120 homes nation-wide, concluding a two-year investigation into the use of America On-Line to distribute child pornography and arrange sex with children. FBI agents in Baltimore first became involved in the investigation in 1993 while attempting to find 10-year-old George Stanley Burdynski, who was abducted from his Brentwood, Maryland, neighborhood. Burdynski was never found, but the investigation led to the discovery that both adults and juveniles were routinely using computers to transmit images of children aged two to 13 showing frontal nudity or sexually explicit conduct.

Following the FBI’s operation, in February 1996, John Delmarle, 49, has been sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment in Rochester, New York. Delmarle agreed to a maximum sentence of 33 months for sending sexually explicit pictures of children through America Online under a plea agreement in December. However, U.S. District Judge Telesca opted to impose a longer sentence, citing the nature of Delmarle’s crime and previous paedophile convictions. Prosecutors stated that the pictures Delmarle transmitted in July and August 1994 portrayed “sadistic conduct” involving children under the age of 12. He also was sentenced to three years’ probation and six months of home confinement after his release, and was barred from associating with minors or using a computer for anything other than employment purposes.

According to a CNN Report on April 7, 1997 (FBI cracks down on child pornography on the Internet April 7, 1997) Operation Innocent Images so far has netted 91 arrests and 83 felony convictions. The figures were provided to CNN as FBI Director Louis Freeh prepared to brief a Senate panel on April 9, 1997 on the operation “Innocent Images”. The FBI’s Baltimore office is leading the nationwide effort to track down pedophiles using online services to transmit child porn or to recruit children into sexual relationships.

Louis Freeh, director of FBI describes the Operation Innocent Images as follows: 

In 1994, the FBI initiated an innovative and proactive investigation, designated as "Innocent Images," to focus on the sexual exploitation of children through the Internet and on-line services. This investigation grew out of our experience in the May 1993 disappearance of George Stanley Burdynski, Jr., a 13-year old, in Prince George's County, Maryland.

In the course of the Burdynski investigation, FBI agents and Prince George's County Police detectives identified two suspects who had sexually exploited numerous juvenile males over a 25-year period. Investigation of these two suspects determined that both adults and juveniles were routinely using computers to transmit images of minors showing frontal nudity or sexually explicit conduct, as well as to lure other minors into engaging in illicit sexual activity with the suspects.

Consultations with experts, both within the FBI and in the private sector, revealed that the use of computer telecommunications was rapidly becoming one of the most prevalent techniques by which pedophiles would share photographic images of minors, as well as identify and recruit children for sexually illicit relationships.

To combat the use of computer telecommunications by pedophiles and sexual predators, the FBI and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Department of Justice jointly developed an investigative and prosecutive strategy to identify subjects who originate, upload, or forward child pornography to other subscribers through the use of on-line service providers. Our highest priority is on those individuals who indicate a willingness to travel for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with a juvenile and those who are distributors of child pornography.

As of March 5, 1997, the "Innocent Images" investigation has generated 200 search warrants, 40 consent searches, 81 indictments, 33 informations, 91 arrests, and 83 felony convictions.

The "Innocent Images" Task Force is staffed by agents of the FBI's Baltimore, Maryland, field office, other federal agencies, and investigators from surrounding state and local jurisdictions in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. However, it is estimated that 95 percent of the subjects identified by the "Innocent Images" investigation reside in other states.

The "Innocent Images" investigation has allowed the FBI and the Department of Justice to develop the investigative techniques needed to address child pornography and other crimes in cyberspace. These techniques fully take into account the Attorney General's guidelines for criminal investigations, including federal statutes that apply to electronic communications and the public's first amendment rights.

The search warrants, seizures of computer equipment, and convictions resulting from the "Innocent Images" are putting pedophiles and criminals on notice that these crimes are being investigated and prosecuted. They also serve to deter others who may consider engaging in such illicit acts.

This ongoing investigation also provides us with extensive background and intelligence on how pedophiles and sexual predators use and manipulate the Internet and on-line services; how they search for, target, and recruit victims; and how they try to evade notice by law enforcement. For example, some pedophiles now post their solicitations in legitimate news groups and bulletin boards knowing that law enforcement is aware of the more obvious sites frequented by pedophiles.

See for the full speech - Child Pornography, Statement of Louis J. Freeh, Director Federal Bureau of Investigation Before the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Committee on the Judiciary United States Senate Washington, D. C., April 8, 1997.

See also Child Pornography on the Internet and the Sexual Exploitation of Children, Statement of Louis J. Freeh, Director Federal Bureau of Investigation Before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and related Agencies Washington, D. C. March 10, 1998 .

"Orchid Club" Indictments

A federal grand jury in San Jose, California, has indicted 16 people from the U.S. and abroad for their participation in a child pornography ring called the "Orchid Club," whose members used the Internet to share sexual pictures and conduct online chat during a child molestation. A U.S. attorney says there are no free speech issues involved: "The thing that ups the ante in this case is that allegations of distribution of pornography are coupled with serious allegations of child molestation. It's an issue relating to the protection of children, not to the First Amendment." (New York Times 17 Jul 96 A8 - taken from Computer Underground Digest 8.58)

The 24 charges against the alleged members of an Internet child pornography ring include conspiracy to sexually exploit children. Tony West, prosecuting assistant and US attorney called the case, "very serious and tragic", saying that while the technology itself is not to blame, people will always find ways to exploit the Internet for such base purposes.

The defendants, who allegedly belonged to a private, online child pornography group called the Orchid Club, shared photos and videos of girls aged five to ten that they had taken themselves. According to the indictment, the men engaged in real-time photo shoots where they typed messages requesting photos of the girls in certain poses while one member shot photos with a digital camera and transmitted the photos back to the group.

Two men, Ronald Riva, 38, and Melton Myers, 55, were arrested in connection with the case in April after Monterey County sheriffs investigated a report that a young girl was molested at a sleep-over party hosted by Riva's daughter. The FBI and the US Customs Service joined the investigation when it became clear the photos were being transmitted across the Internet in the US and abroad.

The members of the club, who live in various US states and in Finland, Australia and Canada, allegedly had to know a secret password to access the photos and online chat sessions. According to the indictment, the men also had to undergo an initiation rite that required them to "recount a personal experience involving their sexual activity with a minor."

Three locked up in the US Orchid Club indictments involving child pornography - November 1997

Three members of an international child pornography ring that used the Internet to transmit pictures of children were sentenced to long jail terms by the U.S. District Judge James Ware in a San Jose courtroom after a long hearing in October 1997.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in San Jose said Ronald Riva, 38, of Greenfield, California, was sentenced to 30 years in prison; David Tank, 35, of Cheney, Washington, to 19 years and 7 months; and Christopher Saemisch, 38, of Lawrence, Kansas, to 11 years.

The men were jailed for their part in a wide-ranging, Internet-based conspiracy in which several children, aged ten or younger, were used in sexually explicit acts to produce pornographic pictures and videotapes, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

The images, including digital pictures made with cameras connected to personal computers, were sent through the mail and transmitted over the Internet to other Orchid Club members in nine states and four countries including Finland, Australia, and Canada. Prosecutors said then they believed it was the first case involving real-time transmission of pictures of children being sexually molested to others online.

Riva pleaded guilty last May to charges of conspiracy to sexually exploit a minor, aiding and abetting in the sexual exploitation of a minor, conspiracy to traffic in child pornography, and sending and receiving pornographic images of children over the Internet. Riva also admitted he had used a digital camera connected to his computer to take pictures of the sexual molestation of a ten-year-old girl on April 1, 1996, prosecutors added.

Saemisch pleaded guilty to similar charges last May, admitting he repeatedly sexually exploited a five-year-old girl and participated in the April 1 online sexual molestation of the ten-year-old.

Tank was convicted after a trial last June of conspiracy to sexually exploit a child, conspiracy to trade material involving the sexual exploitation of children, and distributing visual depictions of children engaged in sexually explicit activity.

Evidence presented at trial reportedly showed that Tank produced sexually explicit pictures of children, including a different five-year-old girl, which he sent to fellow Orchid Club members.

United States v. Ownby

Defendant's Use of Computer to Trade Child Pornography Over Internet Results in Forfeiture of Home
Taken from Law & the Internet, Significant Decisions Concerning the Internet, The New York Law Journal Sept.30, 1996.

Forfeiture of a home appraised at $358,000, and in which the defendant-homeowner had equity of more than $88,000, as in personam criminal forfeiture to punish the defendant for using his in-home computer to trade child pornography on the Internet, does not violate the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia ruled in May 1996.

Senior District Judge James Harry Michael Jr., in United States v. Ownby, 926 F.Supp. 558, held that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of excessive fines does not bar the forfeiture of the defendant's residence in this case because the forfeiture did not exceed the maximum statutory fine authorized for the defendant's offense; the forfeiture did not exceed the maximum fine allowed under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines; and the forfeiture was not excessive in light of the defendant's conduct and the offense committed.

The defendant came to the attention of the FBI during a nationwide investigation conducted by that agency into trading child pornography on the computer bulletin services of America On-Line. The defendant repeatedly accessed America On-Line to send and receive, by computer, images depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, in violation of 18 USC 2552. The court stated that, in analyzing excessive fine claims under the Eighth Amendment in cases of in personam criminal forfeitures, the inquiry involves a comparison of the value of the property being forfeited to the gravity of the offense committed by the defendant and the nature and extent of the defendant's activities. Since the defendant pleaded guilty to three felony counts under 2552, he faced a potential statutory fine of $750,000 and, under the Sentencing Guidelines, the court could have imposed a total fine exceeding $131,000.

The court rejected the defendant's argument that the forfeiture was excessive, because the relevant statute and the fine scheme established by the Guidelines explicitly empowered the court to impose a total fine well in excess of the defendant's $88,737 equity interest. In considering the amount of the forfeiture in light of the defendant's conduct and the offense committed, the court concluded that the evidence convincingly demonstrated that the defendant's level of culpability was profound and that a harsh penalty was warranted, given the more than 1,000 transmissions extending over a substantial period of time and the defendant's extensive trading of sexually exploitative images.

Recent developments in the fight with child pornography in the USA

In late May 1996, US postal authorities shut down a huge child pornography network that distributed videos of children as young as 7 years old engaged in various sexual acts. 45 of the tapes' buyers had been charged, including 23 who had been involved in past or current child sexual abuse. The operation carried in 36 states was named "Overseas Male'' the largest known commercial distribution of child pornography in US history.

FBI conducts On-line child pornography raids in 20 cities

On December 11, 1996, the FBI conducted a nationwide investigation of child pornography on the Internet and computer online services in 20 US cities. FBI Director Louis Freeh stated that:

"Today's searches reflect the FBI's continuing priority attack against some of the most despicable crimes that prey on children"

The FBI said no immediate arrests were made but could be forthcoming after inspection of the materials discovered is complete. The FBI stated that agents searched in Albany, New York; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Baltimore; Boston; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cincinnati; Denver; Milwaukee; Newark, New Jersey; Oklahoma City; Pittsburgh; Richmond, Virginia; Sacramento, California; Tampa, Florida; and Washington, D.C. "Operation Innocent Images," now in its third year, has resulted in 80 arrests, 66 convictions and more than 100 indictments or other federal criminal charges. The probe has centered on efforts by paedophiles to lure minors into illicit sexual relationships and to distribute child pornography through computer service communications.

US Teacher arrested in Internet porn sting

According to CNN, a New York teacher who claimed he was a child psychologist in an online chat room was arrested in Florida and charged with interstate travel with the purpose of engaging in sex with a person under 18 on July 12, 1997. Robert M. Nebens, of Pound Ridge, New York, was also charged Friday with interstate travel with interstate transportation of child pornography. Nebens, 37, arranged to meet a 13-year-old boy in Florida for a sexual liaison after the two met in an America Online chat room called "Barely Legal: Male-for-Male." But the "boy" was a woman who helped the FBI set up a sting that led to the arrest. He arrived in Miami toting dozens of pornographic computer disks. According to an affidavit filed Friday, Nebens bragged of meeting five other boys online and having sexual contact with them. He is reportedly a teacher at Fox Meadow School in Scarsdale, New York, a wealthy New York City suburb.

US AGs go after Internet peadophiles

State attorneys general from around the United States will meet in New York City next month to discuss forming a task force on combating pedophiles who found their victims through the Internet, according to representatives of New York State Attorney General Dennis Vacco. Vacco, who last month announced the results of an exhaustive investigation by his office into online child pornography, wants to establish a national database of background on offenders who seek young victims in chat rooms and Usenet bulletin boards, according to a spokesman. His counterparts from all 50 states have been invited to the meeting, to take place Nov. 13 in Manhattan. Investigative techniques for fighting offenders who use the Internet as their vehicle, including executing search warrants, seizing computers used by sexual predators, and prosecution of offenders who cross state lines are on the agenda for the meeting.

"My investigators and prosecutors will have the opportunity to pass on the methods we have been able to successfully use against Internet sex predators to the other states," Vacco said in a press release. "Since Internet sex crimes frequently cross over state lines, cooperation between law enforcement officials is imperative," he said in the release. The impetus for the gathering was a spate of sex crimes against children committed by adults who posed as youngsters to gain the trust of their victims. The most recent example was the revelation that a 15-year-old New Jersey boy arrested last week for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old boy had himself been raped by a 43-year-old man whom he met in online chat rooms.

By Maria Seminerio, October 13, 1997,

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