It has been a long, long time since I have highlighted the story of one of my fellow inmates under the “Faces Of Felons” title. Many of them are not interested in writing about themselves. This particular story is actually taken from a very long letter that one of the men in my housing unit wrote. He didn’t know who he was writing the letter to, or if anyone would actually ever read it. He wanted to plead his own case and express hope that someone could help him, but he also wanted to raise awareness to help others avoid the mistakes he made so they, and their families, might not experience the swath of destruction that has cut through his life, destroying his family and all that they had and all they ever might hope to have.
David is not typical of everyone who is in here for internet crimes involving child pornography. Frighteningly, neither is he unique. David is a simple man who had a life that was built around simple hopes and dreams. His family, his business; His children, his wife; His employees and the obligations he had to them and their families. David is a pleasant man to be around and his inherent goodness is obvious to anyone willing to take the time to get to know him. He demonstrated painful naiveté in the actions that brought him to prison, but he also trusted his government. You will see how that backfired on him as his story unfolds, but the ease with which David’s entire existence was obliterated COULD happen to almost anyone.
I have taken the liberty of breaking David’s story up into parts. It is a long story. It is David’s story and it is very important, not just to David, but to every citizen of this country, particularly those with families. I wish I could guarantee David positive results from his ‘letter’ being printed in these “Chronicles”, but I cannot. Still, we do what we can do, and we pray to Almighty God that HE can cause David’s words to resonate loudly through the homes of America and help David and his family recover some of what they have lost so needlessly, and perhaps save others from losing what they have built for themselves as well. What happened to David and his family could happen to millions of Americans. Most people have no idea how close they are to becoming an inmate in a federal prison.
This, then, is DAVID HAYDEN’S Letter:
To whom it may concern,
My name is David Hayden from Hobe Sound, Florida, a husband and father of three children, and this is the most important letter I have ever written. I have so much to tell you, yet I know your time is valuable. I have been told that no one will care that my family has been destroyed, and though my loss has no importance compared to the responsibilities you must face each day, I still must try, even if there is little hope. If you decide my letter is worthy of your attention, I beg you to understand what has happened to my loved ones and I, and it can easily happen to someone YOU care for. Please do not throw away what I have written, but see if you can help me, and at the same time warn your family and friends.
For years I used a legal software that is also used by over 150 million other children and adults. This sharing network is monitored by, and has been authorized for us to use by, our government since 1993, and allows consumers to receive songs, movies and old TV shows for free. This program does not offer a preview of what you will receive, but gives only line after line of titles and brief descriptions for you to choose from. Unfortunately, not until the file downloads to your computer, and is then opened, do you actually know what the material really is inside. This is due to the fact that very often the material does NOT match the titles or descriptions. Some of those ‘innocent’ titles are attached to some very disturbing material.
The first time I unknowingly broke the law was six years before I was arrested when I opened a movie I had downloaded for my children to watch that was titled “Harry Potter”. Instead of Harry, the file contained child pornography, which I deleted. Though I was shocked, I continued to use this service and soon discovered that child pornography was frequently ‘hidden’ in the files sent to my computer. I deleted them as I discovered them, but came to foolishly believe that, since the federal government was aware of the existence of this site, that they were also aware of the content of some of the files. What my wife and I did not find out until years later was that by simply opening these files I had broken the law and would pay dearly for it. I have been sent away for 20 years, have lost everything I worked so hard to build, will never see my son, Henry, alive again, as he is terminally ill, and I will be labeled for the rest of my life as someone who wishes to hurt a child. I did not ask for such material, did not watch it, and always deleted it, but in the eyes of the federal government, I had opened the files and that was enough. Now my children no longer have a father to love and support them and all of this happened for what? Free songs and movies?
What is so sad is my stupidity in thinking that such material brought in by this program had nothing to do with me or naively not being aware that I had broken any laws. I did not allow my children to use this program, and they knew to ask me to find the songs and movies they wanted, but I did find out later that some of my employees allowed their children to use this file-sharing program (as millions of children throughout the country do) not knowing the dangers. Even though the federal government was aware of what was happening, there were NO warnings!
In 2001, the House of Representatives, 108th Congress and then the Federal Trade Commission investigated and reported on the dangers to consumers using Peer To Peer sharing software (P2P). Napster and Lime Wire were two of many at the time, and there are many more now. Highlights from their investigations include:
- Children and adults are being exposed to unwanted and inappropriate material including pornography, rape, murder, and child pornography.
- Consumers are UNKNOWINGLY exposing themselves to criminal liability when files that seem harmless when downloaded are, in fact, way over the line.
- In 2001 to 2002 alone, child pornography had increased significantly.
- Consumers face numerous risks when using P2P, and the government CAN play a useful role by educating consumers and having the software companies WARN users of such risks.
When it was suggested by Congress that they do just that, the software industry for P2P sent the following response to the United States Senate: “File sharing software distributors do not have a legal duty under FTC ACT to affirmatively disclose the risks associated with the programs.”
Today, there are STILL no warnings to parents whose children are being exposed to damaging material, nor are there any warnings for consumers telling them that by using these legal, and popular programs, they could be sent to prison for 10, 15, and 20 years or more. (Editor’s note: Although there are now dropdown ‘flags’ that will warn you if you are downloading copyrighted material that you haven’t paid for, there is still nothing to warn you that perhaps you shouldn’t be using P2P at all because of the tremendous proliferation of child pornography into the various files and your life could be destroyed if you do continue.) Our federal government has reported that such material is flooding our Internet and that P2P programs are major offenders in the proliferation of this filth hidden behind altered titles and descriptions, and it has been happening for 20 years! Why not just shut them down if they cannot control the content?
Each year it becomes more and more difficult to protect our children from disturbing, damaging, and illegal material on the Internet and on TV. During the 6 years I made use of P2P to download music and movies for my family, I found that there was a continual increase in the amount of violent, disturbing, and illegal material, just like the government reported, and I am sorry to say that the unwanted and unasked for files of child pornography seemed to increase the most.
It is hard for me to believe, but at some point I became numb to such material, but I assumed that it was simply the way it was and I knew the government was aware of it, so it seemed to make sense to me that if they allowed the P2P sites to operate that it must be ok, as long as you were not specifically seeking that type of material or saving it when it was ‘snuck’ into your home via misleading file descriptions and titles. It was simply a matter of immediately identifying and deleting such material and channeling on to the next file. You didn’t watch it, you just moved on until you found the file you were actually searching for. The simple fact was that a title like “Harry Potter” could have Harry Potter inside, or pornography, or some other unrelated movie like “The Sound of Music”. P2P is nothing more than a crap shoot and the federal government KNOWS this.
I had first heard of this file-sharing program on a TV news show, so my wife and I had always assumed that the authorities knew such material was there, and they DID! I have now lost my freedom for the next TWENTY years leaving my children without a father. Worst of all, it left Leigh, my wife of 17 years, alone to raise and support our boys, including caring for Henry, our oldest child, who is physically and mentally disabled, and has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Henry had just received a trip from the Make A Wish Foundation, so you have an idea of the seriousness of his condition. Leigh is also battling her own serious health issues that have sent her back to the hospital countless times, and now with me gone she has no family to take care of our children when she is sick.
Because I was taken away, our once healthy business that supplied an income and health insurance not just for myself and Leigh, but to 15 employees as well, had to close. Our home of over 20 years is in foreclosure, Leigh has no job, and the group insurance needed so desperately for Henry and Leigh is gone. All of this without any family to fall back on. One of my sons is terminally ill and not expected to live past 24. He is 16. I will never see him again. I’M DESPERATE, PLEASE HELP ME!
As a child, and as an adult, I was not one to dream of what my future was going to be. I never wished for a fancy car or home, and never thought of doing anything else but fix air conditioners. I was good at it and built a nice little company with a good, solid reputation. My only friends have been my wife and children, and it was my responsibility to love them and take care of them. It was a wonderful life!
As with any parent, I would do anything to protect my children, but I have left them with heartache and an uncertain future. It was my job to protect, support, and love them, and I had promised to be there for whatever God had planned for our boy Henry. He is the bravest and most inspiring person I have ever met. “Never give up!” he would tell us, but I have given up. I am helpless in finding a way to be there for them. They trusted me and I have failed them.
All of this is such a waste. My ignorance in understanding that I was doing something wrong, and my government’s unusual idea of ‘justice’, has destroyed my family, which did not have to happen. I am 55 years old and have never been in trouble in my life, nor did I think I ever would be. I have never visited an illegal website, or tried to contact a child (or anyone else for that matter), and I did not intentionally search for, or download child pornography, yet I used a defective program and did not listen to my moral compass when P2P brought in child pornography. I should not have become numb to it, but accepted it as an unpleasant part of a program that operated in full view of, and with the complete knowledge of my government, whom I trusted to protect ME so I could then be around to protect my family.
I have paid dearly. I have lost it all. TWENTY YEARS?? Leaving children without their father?? WHY???
David’s Letter will continue……