The Rest of the Story: What Most People Don’t Know about Pornography Investigations

December 17, 2014 by David S. Seltzer

Pornography cases are often seen in the media as “open and shut” propositions: if a person stands accused of a cybercrime, then he or she should be punished. Those accused of cybercrimes involving children are often maligned more than those accused of other crimes, because many people find such acts highly disturbing. However, the information made public in such cases may not be fully accurate or complete.

Even if a suspect did engage in wrongdoing, the charges may suggest a more serious crime than what actually occurred. Our Miami cybercrime law team has seen this happen frequently and would like to educate our readers about the complexities and nuances of these cases. To that end, let’s examine two recent news items.

North New Jersey Man Accused

According to the North Jersey News website, thirty-year-old Thomas Bachalis of Newark was arrested on December 4, 2014, and charged with distributing child pornography using his computer. Officers of the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office searched Bachalis’ home in September 2013 and found “digital evidence depicting child sexual abuse, including material [involving] prepubescent minors.” Earlier searches conducted in August 2013 resulted in an officer downloading thirty-two pornographic images from an IP address connected to Bachalis’ residence. If convicted, Bachalis could face a minimum five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Northwest Georgia Man Accused

Pornography accusations also abound in northwest Georgia. Stephen Michael Hipple was recently sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for “aggravated sodomy,” possessing and distributing child pornography, and using a child younger than twelve to take pornographic photographs. Hipple sent and received at least one pornographic picture with his cell phone circa July 1, 2014.

What the Media Doesn’t Say

Unfortunately, news stories like these are often summarized as quickly as possible by the media, sometimes missing or omitting important details that could partially or completely exonerate the accused. Cybercrime investigations are often complicated for one or more of the following reasons:

• Lack of evidence. One or two pictures are generally not enough to convict someone of severe pornography charges, but a few pictures are often all that are cited on a complaint.

• Misinterpretation of evidence. This can occur when the suspect did in fact download pornography, but not as much as the charges suggest. It can also occur if the police enter more than one type of evidence – for example, if a search warrant specified only data from a computer but officers entered data from a phone into the case.

• Definition disagreements. What exactly constitutes child pornography and violations of Florida and federal cybercrime law? Arguments over these definitions can have profound ramifications for defendants.

Do you need help responding to federal cybercrime or solicitation charges? Call an experienced Miami cybercrimes attorney with Seltzer Law P.A. Today to schedule a free consultation. Call anytime at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333)