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Life Sentence Imposed for Possessor of Kiddie Porn

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A federal appeals court in Philadelphia recently upheld a life sentence imposed on a Delaware man after he was convicted of possession of child pornography, attempting to produce child pornography, and attempting to coerce and entice a child to commit a violation of the law. In eight years of being a State College criminal defense lawyer, I have never read a case in which I believed that the punishment fit the crime as much as it does in this case. I understand that many people believe that all people that are convicted of sexually abusing children, including former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, should get a least life in prison and possibly even the death penalty, but this defendant needs a life sentence to not only act as a punishment but also to simply keep him off the streets and thereby prevent him from hurting another child.

Repeat Sex Offender

The criminal defendant had Delaware state convictions from the late 1990's that were related to the possession of child pornography and required him to register as a sex offender with the state. In October of 2008, the Delaware State Police received a tip that the criminal defendant had failed to update his employment status with the sex offender registration.

The tipster also informed the police that the criminal defendant was viewing child pornography at work and had planned a trip to the Philippines for sexual endeavors. Based upon the tip, the police obtained a search warrant for the work computers, and the police found kiddie porn and chat messages between the criminal defendant and a woman in the Philippines on the computers. The chats referenced sexual acts that the man wanted to perform on the woman's 2-year old daughter now and additional sexual acts that he wanted to perform as she grew up. Basically, the defendant told the mother that he wanted to do certain sexual activities with the baby as she grew up, and the mother's responses showed that she was willing to go along with it. The chats were some of the most disturbing things that I have ever read.

Criminal Defense Lawyer Sought Suppression of Evidence - Invalid Warrant

The man's criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress evidence found on the work computers and argued that the warrants did not contain sufficient probable cause and thereby were invalid. The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that warrants are only issued upon probable cause, so the  defense lawyer's argument was that the lack of probable cause resulted in a search that violated his client's constitutional rights. In many situations, the legal remedy for a search that violates the constitution is a suppression of evidence under what is called the exclusionary rule. I made a similar argument a few years ago and a Centre County judge granted suppression of evidence in the State College drug case a few years ago in which evidence was suppressed after the police conducted an unconstitutional search.

Suppression of Evidence Denied By Judge

In this case, the trial judge rejected the defense attorney's suppression argument and thereby allowed evidence found from the work computers to be admitted at trial. Based upon that evidence, the defendant was convicted and then filed an appeal challenging the suppression ruling. The appellate court agreed with the defense lawyer that the search warrants were not supported by probable cause, but the court did not believe that suppression of evidence was needed here. The appellate court noted that the purpose of the "exclusionary rule" is to deter improper police conduct. Here, the police executed what they believed was a valid warrant because a judge had reviewed it and found that it contained probable cause.  Under Federal law, if the police act with a "good faith" belief that they are searching based upon a validly issued warrant, then  the "good faith" exception applies and does not require that the evidence be suppressed.  The Pennsylvania court found that the good faith exception was applicable here and affirmed the criminal defendant's convictionor agreed with the trial court's admission of the evidence seized from the computer.

Justice Was Served

While I am a criminal defense lawyer that believes in giving criminal defendants the benefit of the doubt, hoping that they will reform their behavior and return to society as a positive, contributing member, I have no such empathy for this man. I do applaud his defense lawyer for performing his legal duty and zealously representing his client, but I am also happy that I feel that justice was served in giving this man a life sentence. The man's chats discussed a plan to sexually abuse a 2-year old child for years to come, and such a person needs to be removed from society to ensure that he cannot hurt children ever again.

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