Former Gators Announcer Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison on Child Porn Charges

September 21, 2010 by David S. Seltzer

As an Orlando cyber crime criminal defense attorney, I have been keeping an eye on the story of Steve Babik. Babik was a radio and television announcer for the Florida Gators for 23 years, making him well known to Gators fans across the state. He landed in serious legal trouble in January when authorities discovered child pornography being shared from his home computer. He was accused of sharing child pornography files from his computer more than 300 times between June of 2008 and November of 2009. In federal court on Sept. 17, he pleaded guilty to one count each of possessing and distributing child pornography, which the Gainesville Sun said was the result of a plea bargain. He was then sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison, to be followed by a lifetime sentence of probation. Before the plea, he had been facing up to 20 years in federal prison.

Federal investigators searching Babik’s home found that his computer contained eight still images and 107 video clips showing children involved in sexual activities. According to testimony at Babik’s three-hour sentencing hearing, he immediately took responsibility for his actions when the images were discovered. He has already made a 60-second public service announcement discussing his crime and why it was wrong. His wife of 25 years, Betty Babik, said she had thought he showed symptoms of depression in 2009 and urged him to get help. Statements on Babik’s behalf also came from the Rev. Dan Johnson of the family’s church and from UF Athletic Director Jeremy Foley. In Babik’s statement on his own behalf, he said he didn’t realize at the time that he was doing damage to the children in the videos he watched, but recognizes it now. He also said he did not realize he was sharing the videos.

As a West Palm Beach cyber crime criminal defense lawyer, I am particularly interested in that last statement, because it shows where technology-related crimes can reach farther than even the perpetrators themselves recognize. If Babik truly did not know that he was sharing the images -- which is possible for people who are not technically minded and do not change default software settings -- he may not have met the definition of the crime of distributing child pornography. The federal codes for this crime, 18 U.S.C. sec. 2252 and sec. 2252A, forbids knowingly transporting, shipping or distributing child pornography. That means the perpetrator has to know the images are child pornography and know that they are being transported. Thus, a mail carrier could not be prosecuted for delivering a sealed letter with child pornography in it.

In my work as a Miami-Dade cyber crime criminal defense attorney, I seek out defenses like these whenever the circumstances suggest them. There truly are circumstances under which viruses and other technological problems can explain the crime. The article does not go into the details of the case, which could explain why Babik’s child pornography criminal defense lawyers couldn’t use a defense like this. But in general, people in Babik’s position should know that they should not be prosecuted for distribution when they simply failed to understand the software they were using. Such people would still face prosecution for possession of child pornography, and that is also a serious crime. But with sentences for distribution ranging from five to 20 years, no defendant cannot afford to allow prosecutors to tack on extra charges that do not fit the crime.