Defense Lawyer Found Not Guilty of Possessing Child Pornography He Had for Work

December 20, 2010 by David S. Seltzer

A criminal prosecution out of South Dakota caught my eye because it’s directly relevant to what I do as a Fort Lauderdale cyber crime criminal defense attorney. The Sioux Falls Argus-Leader reported Dec. 18 that attorney Leo Flynn was acquitted of child pornography charges that he said stemmed from his work defending clients. Flynn was charged with possession, distribution, receipt and access with intent to view child pornography after investigators found him sharing the material through the file-sharing software Limewire. Investigators later found more files in the “recycling bin” of his computer and evidence that he’d visited websites containing child pornography. Flynn maintained that he’d looked at the material as part of his cases and defended himself using a South Dakota state law shielding lawyers, police officers and other officials from prosecution for possessing and viewing child pornography as part of their work.

Flynn was reportedly known as the “perv attorney” locally because he defended a lot of sex cases. According to the newspaper, however, he is not computer-savvy and didn’t realize that Limewire was set to share his files by default. He maintained that he’d looked into child pornography in order to provide advice to his clients, and shared details of each request without sharing the name of the client, who would be protected by lawyer-client confidentiality. Prosecutors argued that the timing of some of his searches was off, and that he’d never asked his officemate, another attorney, for help with technical issues. They also pointed to a statement Flynn made when first confronted with the charges, that his life was over and he was going to prison. The prosecution said this was evidence of his guilt, but the jury apparently disagreed, acquitting Flynn on the basis that his actions were work-related.

As a Miami-Dade cyber crime criminal defense lawyer, I am sympathetic. Regardless of whether Flynn’s statement that he was going to prison was incriminating, it was accurate -- that’s by far the most common outcome to a child pornography case. Juries aren’t sympathetic to defendants they see as child molesters, so it’s difficult to successfully defend even those who are victims of bad circumstances, as Flynn appears to be. Unfortunately, his key mistake -- not realizing that Limewire was sharing files he thought were confidential -- is not uncommon. People who don’t understand the technology well may not even realize the software has that function, or realize it’s enabled by default, or know how to turn it off. When prosecutors and police don’t realize this, they can even bring innocent people up on serious cyber crime charges. Understanding technology is one of my most important jobs as a West Palm Beach cyber crime criminal defense attorney, because it can prove my clients’ innocence or guilt long before any trial takes place.

If you’re charged with a child pornography crime or another very serious technology crime, don’t hesitate to call the experienced cyber crime defense lawyers at Seltzer Law, P.A. To reach us, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, contact us through the Internet or call 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) toll-free.