Articles Tagged with Child Pornography

“Moving forward, our office will continue to pursue stiff penalties [for child pornography cases] …”

That was the strong message delivered by Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy on November 20, 2023, following the sentencing of Patrick Wojahn. Wojahn, the former mayor of College Park, pled guilty to 140 counts of possession and/or distribution of child pornography and was subsequently sentenced to 30 years in prison. The prosecutor assigned to that case explained during the sentencing hearing, “The reason why he pled to 140 counts was because our office is not going to take a position as to which child deserves to have their rape—that was memorialized on video and forever lives on the internet—pled to.”

So, you can imagine the angst my client felt when he learned on December 7, 2023—just a little over two weeks after the Wojahn sentencing—that he had been indicted with the same criminal offenses, in the same jurisdiction, by the same prosecutor. Like Wojahn, my client had no prior criminal record, was well-educated, a devoted family man with a good paying job. Yet here he was facing the possibility of decades in prison.

I recently represented a young man in Harford County Circuit Court who was charged with Possession of Child Pornography.  I am former prosecutor and career full time criminal defense attorney practicing exclusively criminal law for 22 years.  I have defended scores of individuals charged with Possession and/or Distribution of Child Pornography and have blogged many times about the increasingly harsh penalties that are being sought by both state and federal prosecutors in these cases.  The granting of probation before judgment in these cases is almost unheard of in recent times.

My client was just 18 years old when he was charged in this case.  He was caught up in the typical investigation that we see in these cases.  Undercover police officers identify a computer that shares child pornography on file sharing programs such as bitTorrent and watch it until a computer with an IP address within their jurisdiction connects to it and downloads Child Pornography.  The police will then subpeona the user data for that IP address and execute a search and seizure warrant looking for the device or devices that were used to download the illegal material.

The case against my client on first review appeared quite strong.  The police confiscated his phone and on that phone were hundreds of images of Child Pornography.  My client did not admit to downloading child pornography but he did admit to exclusive use of the phone.  When interviewing my client he advised that he could not understand why there would be images on his computer because he  never intentionally downloaded this material.  He advised that he did in fact use BitTorrent to download legal pornography and that in the event that the download included Child Pornography,  he always erased that material immediately.

Representation in cases involving Possession and Distribution of Child Pornography require expertise that only an Aggressive Criminal Law Specialist can provide.  I am a full time Maryland Criminal Attorney and former Baltimore County Assistant State’s Attorney with more than 20 years of experience.  Throughout my career as a prosecutor and full time criminal defense attorney,  I have handled hundreds of cases involving the Possession and/or Distribution of Child Pornography in Baltimore County and across the State.  Over the last 20 years I am aware of no other criminal attorney in the state who has handled more of these cases than I have along with my partner, Former Assistant United State’s Attorney and Chief of the Sex Offense Unit,  Andrew C. White.   As I have written before on this blog, these cases are prosecuted extremely aggressively and often result in substantial state and federal prison sentences.  This is why is is so imperative to hire attorneys who specialize in these types of cases.

Unfortunately, there are many lawyers who advertise for these cases who simply do not possess the necessary experience and expertise to effectively represent people who are charged with these offenses.  I strongly suggest that anyone who is considering hiring a criminal attorney for a case involving child pornography possession or distribution  (or any criminal case for that matter) , research all prospective attorneys on Maryland Case Search.  This is the official court record for all cases filed in Maryland and it does not allow for exaggeration of an attorney’s experience or credentials.

Today, the typical Child Pornography case involves the use of peer to peer,  (P2P) networks such as, Bit Torrent, Shareaza, Gnutella, eDonkey2000 and Kademlia  (commonly referred to as Kad) which allow people using P2P software to download and share files with other people on the network.  A Detective named Reese handles all of these investigations in Baltimore County and he is very good at his job.   In the typical case, the detectives will conduct online investigations using law enforcement investigative software.  When an IP address located in Maryland become associated with a device known to be of investigative interest to child pornography, they will link up with that computer and simultaneously download the material from the Maryland IP address as it is downloading it from the device known to contain child pornography.  Once they have this material, they will research the IP address and draft an application and affidavit for search and seizure warrant.

As a former Assistant State’s Attorney and full time criminal attorney for over 20 years, I have both prosecuted and defended hundreds of individuals who have been charged with Sex Offenses.  Many, indeed virtually all, people who are convicted with one of these offenses are required to register as a sex offender.   The statute controlling sexual offender registry is complicated and, in recent years, has been amended several times.  I have recently been retained by 3 separate clients who have had their Sexual Offender Registration Requirements retroactively changed as a result of these amendments.  One was not required to register at all as a result of his conviction but is now being told he must, and two others who have had their registration terms changed from 10 years to life.   We believe that these changes are in clear violation of the Ex post Facto Clause contained in Article 17 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights.  We are filing what is called a Declaratory Judgment action in the Circuit Court in each one of these cases to request that the court issue and Order to the Department of Public Safety to remove these individuals from registry.  Here is a brief synopsis of the law:

In 2009, the General Assembly passed a new law, effective October 1, 2009 changing the registration requirements.  The new statute said an offender who committed an offense prior to October 1, 1995, but was convicted after, and had not previously been required to register, now had to register.   In 2010, the statute was again amended changing the registration term for Tier III sex offenders from 10 years to lifetime registration.

In 2013 the Court of Appeal heard the case of Doe v. Department of Public Safety.    In this case, Doe  filed a civil proceeding, seeking declaratory judgment seeking removal of his name from the registry.  That relief was denied by the Circuit Court and Doe appealed to the Court of Special Appeals.  On appeal, he argued that requiring him to register violated his plea agreement and raised an ex post facto argument.  The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the trial court.  The Court of Appeals took certiorari.

As a former Assistant State’s Attorney and current Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney with decades of experience, I have handled scores of cases involving the illegal Possession and Distribution of Child Pornography. These cases can be charged in state court or in federal court where the penalties are far more severe. For this reason, I always team up with my partner Andrew White to work these cases as Andy is a former Federal Prosecutor who headed up the sex offense unit for 7 years. He has been very successful over the years at convincing his former colleagues to defer prosecution in these matters to the state courts. Even in State court, however, These are serious crimes that carry the possibility of a felony conviction and extended prison sentences. It may come as a surprise to some to learn that a even a conviction for Misdemeanor Possession of Child Pornography requires mandatory registration as a Tier I Sex Offender for 15 years. A conviction for Felony Distribution or Possession with the Intent to Distribute Child Pornography requires registration as a Tier II Sex Offender for 25 years.

For many people the prospect of having to register as a Sex Offender can be even more daunting than going to prison. Most people are aware of the terrible society limitations and stigma such a designation can carry including but not limited to: Limitations on where one can live, prohibition from even stepping on the property of their children’s schools, notification of neighbors by the police and inclusion on web sites that includes their pictures and exact locations of their homes. I recently represented a 21 year old man who found himself facing all of these daunting consequences. Here are the facts – as always in these types of cases, I have changed or left out enough identifying facts to protect my client’s anonymity but the facts of the case are completely accurate:

My client is a young man who has no prior criminal or juvenile record. He grew up in a middle class family in the Washington DC suburbs. He graduated from high school had been attending community college part time for the last three years earning most of the credits needed to be awarded an associate degree . His plan is to transfer to a four year university to complete his studies. He was still living at home to save money and was working in a restaurant to help pay for his tuition and living expenses. Basically, he was a normal young guy living a normal life – at least until 5:00 AM one morning last summer.

Sexual assault and child pornography. These words have thus far been missing from the discussion concerning former Hopkins doctor Nikita A. Levy’s alleged filming of his patients in various states of undress. Dr. Levy’s alleged actions constitute a form of sexual assault against every patient he filmed in this manner. Moreover, Dr. Levy (and potentially others) are guilty of possessing, manufacturing and distributing child pornography to the extent that any of the victims were under age 18.
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As a Former Baltimore Prosecutor and current criminal attorney I have been involved in the prosecution of hundreds of child sex offenders. The disgraced and now deceased Johns Hopkins Gynecologist, Dr. Nikita Levy, would have likely faced prosecution under multiple federal and state criminal statutes had he not apparently committed suicide. The police are conducting an investigation that could potentially lead to charges against others if they either conspired with him to collect the images without the knowledge of the victims or if the materials were distributed to by others. In addition to many other areas of practice at STSW, we have a Practice Area Exclusively Dedicated to the Protection of Victim’s Rights.

Among the most serious charges that could have been filed against Dr. Levy and anyone who may have participated with him in these crimes, are charges involving the possession, distribution and manufacture of child pornography. According to news reports, many of his long time patients sent subsequently sent their daughters to him for gynecological care. Assuming any of the large cache of photos allegedly found in his home, turn out to be of minor victims, these statutes have undoubtedly been violated.
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Recent reporting is a good example of both the increasing severity of federal sentences as well as an increased emphasis on federal prosecutions for those who are caught possessing and/or trading in child pornography. As a former Assistant United State’s Attorney for the District of Maryland I have both prosecuted as well as defended hundreds of cases involving child pornography.
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