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Articles by Jack Gillum

Prosecutors Dropping Child Porn Charges After Software Tools Are Questioned

More than a dozen cases were dismissed after defense attorneys asked to examine, or raised doubts about, computer programs that track illegal images to internet addresses.

by Jack Gillum, ProPublica

Using specialized software, investigators traced explicit child pornography to Todd Hartman’s internet address. A dozen police officers raided his Los Angeles-area apartment, seized his computer and arrested him for files including a video of a man ejaculating on a 7-year-old girl. But after his lawyer contended that the software tool inappropriately accessed Hartman’s private files, and asked to examine how it worked, prosecutors dismissed the case.

Near Phoenix, police with a similar detection program tracked underage porn photos, including a 4-year-old with her legs spread, to Tom Tolworthy’s home computer. He was indicted in state court on 10 counts of committing a “dangerous crime against children,” each of which carried a decade in prison if convicted. Yet when investigators checked Tolworthy’s hard drive, the images weren’t there. Even though investigators said different offensive files surfaced on another computer that he owned, the case was tossed.

At a time when at least half a million laptops, tablets, phones and other devices are viewing or sharing child pornography on the internet ...




 

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