Editor’s note: If you have not read this series from the beginning, please go back to ‘Part 1’ and start there. David’s story is too important to miss any part of it.
David’s letter continues:
The federal government charged me with “distribution of child pornography” because P2P makes whatever you have available to others, even though I never knowingly shared ANYTHING with another individual. The U. S. Attorney who was prosecuting the case offered me a plea bargain. If I would plead guilty, instead of the maximum of TWENTY YEARS, they would ‘only’ sentence me to SEVENTEEN! I was shocked, but I was also saddened that they would so easily destroy me and my family, and for what? Free movies and songs? Told that the government wins 97% of the time, I still had no choice but to go to trial and hope that a jury could be made to understand that this was all a tragic mistake and that I was NOT an evil person. I believed (there is that problem with ‘trust’ and being ‘naive’ again) that certain facts would come out in court and the jury would realize how this all happened.
Following are some of the points I thought would help make things obvious to the jury and demonstrate that my actions were innocent, even if those same actions were technically in violation of the law. It was my hope that the jury could be made to see that those laws were designed for people who INTENTIONALLY trafficked in this filth, and that I was NOT one of them:
- The prosecution knew that everything I had told them about P2P was true and had been documented years earlier in the reports I mentioned.
- The prosecutor knew that the local detective, who was the government’s ‘expert’ witness, would testify under oath that he believed I was unaware I was breaking the law, and he also believed I had no intention of sharing that material with others.
- The prosecutor was aware that the only child pornography that ever entered my computer was that which was misleadingly labeled and obtained through the P2P software, a defective software which gave consumers unwanted illegal material, as had been documented in several government reports, and was allowed to operate for over twenty years with no warnings to the public, even though such warnings were recommended in some of those same reports! The software companies said “No!” to those warnings and the U.S. Congress and Federal Trade Commission did nothing.
- That I did not put anything on the Internet myself, nor did I ever try to conceal anything that ever came into my computer. I simply deleted the material and put it in the ‘wastebasket’ with the ‘trash’, which is what it was, and is.
- That this software could give ANY average user enough unwanted material in ONE DAY that, with today’s laws, could net a TWENTY YEAR sentence to someone like me who has never been in any sort of trouble in his life.
- I had never used the popular ‘search’ terms used by known pedophiles and predators to locate child pornography on P2P.
- The files that came into my computer that began the investigation had all been deleted long before they ever came to arrest me.
- I had not tried to hide my activities or my actions because, again, my misguided logic kicked in and told me I WAS doing the right thing by simply discarding the trash that came in unwanted and uninvited.
In the course of the trial, the U.S. Attorney’s office went through tremendous effort and expense to prove me guilty of something that I readily admitted to, although NOT for the reasons, and with the intent, that they implied and wanted to destroy my family’s lives for. Since I didn’t use any of the ‘common’ search terms, they brought in an ‘expert’ from CALIFORNIA who testified that “Lord Of The Rings”, which was a search term I had used was a term used by some people looking for child pornography. How was I supposed to know that? When I typed in “Lord Of The Rings” I was looking for the MOVIE because my family wished to watch it.
Another detective testified that most of the material that came into my computer had originated on a site called “Stickam” a website I knew nothing about, but which I learned through the detective’s testimony is a legal website. The website apparently existed for one purpose: For people to upload their private videos for others to view. He testified that there was much illegal material on this so-called ‘LEGAL’ website that had, amongst its 9 MILLION members, children of all ages, as well as adults. When he was asked why the operators of the website were not required to monitor and censor the content on its website as were the operators of “YouTube”, the detective simply stated “I don’t know”. Asked, since users must give their email address in order to become members, could law enforcement track down those belonging to children and notify their parents of what their children were involved in, his answer was “Yes, they COULD do that”, but when asked why authorities did NOT do that, he could only respond, “I don’t know”.
I found it difficult to explain to the jury why I would continue to open these files even though I knew that many of them contained offensive, or illegal, material and some of it depicted children being sexually abused. The jury watched some of the videos which were recovered from the hard drive. As most of us are aware, deleting something doesn’t make it go away completely, but I never worried about it because I felt I was doing the right thing. I refused to watch the videos they were shown. My lawyer watched the jury and made note of the ones who were crying. I regret not telling the jury that I never watched any of the videos long enough to cry. I probably would have, as I am a loving parent and would never think to hurt a child, but I simply channeled through the files and instantly knew if something I opened was what I was looking for.
Congress had it right when they reported that innocent search terms returned files with offensive material at a rate as high as SIXTY PERCENT! It makes one wonder why MILLIONS of ordinary Americans used, and continue to use, P2P with all of its issues, and all of its dangers. Speaking for myself, it had everything to do with my limited time, and it was not complicated to operate. P2P was easy to use, could be left to run on its own, and would deposit everything in one, easy-to-find spot on my computer. No wasted time wandering the internet. Once a week I would make a folder, move the files that had come in into that folder, and then go through them when time permitted.
For six years I did this, feeling no pressure or time constraints checking out the files, and though I deleted so many folders, and thousands of types of files over the years, I did not know that what I had deleted, or how I had used P2P, would come to destroy everything that I hold dear.
The trial lasted only two days, but it took the jury an additional THREE days to find me guilty. It was obvious that they struggled, but what could they do? I had, after all, opened the files in question. The government reports were never brought up in court, nor was it permissible to inform the jury that a guilty verdict would net me a TWENTY YEAR sentence and destroy my life, my business, and my family, in addition to putting 15 people out of work. (Editor’s note: I simply have to interject here that I believe that had the jury any IDEA of what would happen, they never would have found David guilty. This is not strictly conjecture on my part as a federal judge in New York polled a jury AFTER he delivered a mandatory ten year sentence involving child pornography and 7 said that knowledge would have caused them to reconsider and 3 stated that it would have definitely caused them to vote NOT guilty.)
I had hoped that they would see innocence, and not guilt; stupidity, and not evil. Throughout my life I have been told that I have difficulty seeing the whole picture, and that may be true. I also have the tendency to concentrate only on what is in front of me, but it is the only way I can function through my disabilities. However, if you examine my actions closely, you will see that I used the software in exactly the manner in which it was designed. I never had any motives for using P2P other than finding movies and songs for my family to enjoy. If I had any idea I was engaged in illegal activity, I would never have allowed my employees to use it, nor would I ever have spoken with my wife about the crap that accompanied the files I was actually looking for. My actions were stupid, but innocent.
Now that I was found guilty by the jury, I turned my attention to the judge and began to prepare for sentencing. I hoped that I would find compassion, understanding, and fairness….all of the components of JUSTICE….when he sentenced me.
Again, I was to find out that I was very mistaken.
David’s ‘letter’ will be continued……