A Massachusetts man was recently charged with having images of child pornography on his computer. After spending $250,000 on legal fees and computer experts, he was able to show that a computer virus was responsible for the images. Computer experts warn that this may not be an isolated incident.
ABC News has the story.
In the case above, it was revealed that a virus programmed the man’s computer to visit up to 40 child pornography websites every minute. However, the proof of his innocence did not come until 11 months after prosecutors filed charges. There have been a handful of similar documented cases around the United States and the United Kingdom which reveal that other innocent people have been charged. It is unknown how many other people have been wrongfully charged or convicted for child porn because of computer viruses, since many cases have not undergone thorough forensic reviews.
A computer virus can occur in a number of ways including opening email or visiting a malicious website. Some viruses can force another person’s computer to visit child porn websites and collect illegal images from those sites. A computer can also be turned into a storage facility for images and movies that a pedophile can then safely view remotely. Other times the hacker may be playing a prank or trying to frame the user.
Prosecutors maintain that the computer virus argument is generally a ploy. Yet, forensic experts believe that computer viruses are a very real threat when it comes to child porn charges. Experts also agree that in some cases it is simply impossible to determine how an illegal image ended up on a computer.
Our criminal attorneys have successfully defended numerous clients charged with internet crimes, including the possession of child pornography. In our experience, it is not uncommon for prosecutors to charge people who were unaware that illegal images or videos were being stored on their computers. A good criminal defense attorney will consult with a forensic computer expert to determine where the images came from and how they got onto the computer. Many times illegal data comes from other users, unintended emails or downloads, or as this story highlights, a computer hacker or virus. Hiring a forensic computer expert is just one of many steps a criminal defense attorney will take when defending against child porn charges.
Pate & Brody is an accomplished Georgia law firm with offices in Atlanta, Macon and Madison. Our lawyers are dedicated to pursuing justice for people charged with serious crimes. We have successfully represented clients facing serious federal criminal charges and state criminal charges in courts across Georgia. Our lawyers have been recognized on the list of Georgia’s “Super Lawyers”, and included among Georgia’s “Legal Elite” by Georgia Trend Magazine. Page Pate was recently the Chairman of the Criminal Law Section of the Atlanta Bar Association.