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Woman acquitted of sex offenses at trial in Missouri

A recent case from Boone County, Missouri, illustrates the positive results that can occur when a defendant charged with internet pornography crimes mounts a vigorous defense.

After a two-day trial, jurors acquitted a woman, 21, of two sex offenses: possession of child pornography and first-degree promotion of child pornography. Investigators said that they downloaded illicit files from the woman's computer using a file-sharing service.

A close examination of the case will show the level of detail necessary to fight these kinds of charges successfully. In order to get a conviction on the two charges, prosecutors had to show that the woman knowingly possessed child pornography and that she knowingly promoted the files by virtue of her use of the file-sharing system.

However, the woman's attorney presented evidence that she did not know that there was child pornography content in the files in question. For example, there was evidence that the woman had used an electronic search to find files online. But the evidence showed that she had used general query terms such as "porn" and "gay" instead of terms that would return illegal content.

The woman's attorney also put an expert witness on the stand who testified that she may have downloaded the files on the basis of download speed and file type rather than the file name. The expert testified that users of the file-sharing service often do not know what they are downloading until they open the file.

Because of her decision to offer a robust defense, the woman can now resume some semblance of her former life instead of potentially serving many years in prison.

Source: Columbia Daily Tribune, "Woman acquitted at child porn trial," Brennan David, May 11, 2012

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