How Long Does It Take To Resolve A Child Pornography Case?
Interviewer: How long could a Child Pornography case potentially last?
Paul Cramm: Several months. These are lengthy cases. There’s a lot of time-consuming work that needs to be done. Lots of pretrial litigation and lots of pretrial motions are likely to be filed in a case like this. A case like this is likely to take more time to investigate and to prepare and properly defend than a case that does not involve such advanced digital scientific evidence.
Further Consequences of Child Pornography Case
Interviewer: If someone were to be convicted, how could that affect someone’s life?
Paul Cramm: It’s absolutely devastating. If you’re convicted at the federal level, you will serve prison time. If it’s a possession case, you will serve 60 months. If it is a trafficking case, you will serve 120 months, and the numbers go up from there. Federal prison is a very unpleasant place to begin with. It’s an incredibly unpleasant place if you are former law enforcement who’s committed a crime and then convicted, or if you are a child molester or pornographer. Federal prison is a really tough place to be for these people.
Once they’re out, they will be on the sex offender registry. Depending on their jurisdiction, it can be anywhere from 10 or 15 years to perhaps a lifetime registration requirement. Anyone who chooses and goes online and types in the zip code will come up with any and all registered sex offenders in that neighborhood. If someone’s convicted, maybe in their late 20s or early 30s, and let’s say they get a plea negotiation for possession only, so they’re out of prison in 5 years, but for the rest of their adult life, they’re going to be a registered sex offender. It can make it impossible to secure employment and housing, or just live a normal life. This is one of the cases that, long after the sentence has been served, these people are still paying an ongoing debt, if you will. I think that the stigma from this offense is far different, and far worse than the stigma associated really with any other criminal offense.
Interviewer: That being said, do you think that they go into it already where the prosecution utilizes experts with a biased opinion, or jury with a biased opinion on this matter? Is this a situation where people automatically assume that the accused is automatically guilty or most likely guilty?
Paul Cramm: I think that type of heavy bias against the defendant is still prevalent. I think was more prevalent earlier on. I think that with the absolute mushroom cloud, parabolic explosion of information available on the Internet, the average citizen subject to jury duty has been exposed to so much more information in today’s day and age than in the pre-Internet day and age.
I think that people are not as easily shocked. I think that there are very few topics that people have never heard of before. I think that jurors today have a much higher shock threshold, since that they are able to pay attention to fact circumstances and details without being overwhelmed by the taboo or the shock nature of a topic, or an image, or a piece of material before the advent of the Internet.
I think that whole response was very much visceral, and much more emotional. I think that people talk about this on the news; they talk about it in television crime dramas and programs. You might see an exposé on this on Dateline or 60 Minutes. At least we’ve taken some of the shock value away from the type of offenses we’re dealing with here to get your juror to slow down a little bit and pay attention to the details that matter, and not decide a case based on the very first direction that their knee jerked when they heard the name of the charge recited in open court.
Child Pornography Cases Are Very Unpredictable
Interviewer: When you first meet with a client, are new cases very unpredictable, or can you come up with an idea of how the case might play out?
Paul Cramm: I think the cases are very, very unpredictable. They are very unique; every situation is unique. We talked about a case for a very young man that was under investigation. He lived with four or five other college-aged students. It was going to be impossible to ascertain which individual person would’ve been responsible for access to the machine at the time. That case ultimately turned into a no charge; neither federal nor state wanted to pursue that one because the evidence was going to be too difficult to prove one person accessing to the exclusion of others.
We could never have known that on the day that we met with this young man. It was just a matter of conducting a thorough investigation. Another case was where an individual was a professional computer technician. Before working on any computer that was brought in for service, he would create a full, bit by bit, file by file, mirror image of the hard drive of the customer’s computer, so that he would not lose any of the customer’s data while working to repair the computer.
He created several mirror image copies of the computers that were subject to work at any given time in his shop, and did so with a computer that he owned. On one of these computers, images appeared. A spouse at the time saw images on the computer and, alarmed, made a call to police. The race is on. The investigation is here. We were able to establish through help from Guardian Digital Forensics that these were not images that anyone had located, downloaded, clicked, and saved from the Internet.
In fact, we were able to trace through the forensic examination exactly how many generations of this mirror drive had been saved and resaved from the source computer. We just won’t know any of this until we get into the case and begin to work on the case. We certainly want to explore absolutely every single digital defense. We want to explore absolutely every single fact and circumstantial defense to answer the question of, if the images do in fact exist on this hard drive, how did they get there, and who’s responsible for that?
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