The criminal prosecution seems to have ended for John R., of Vermont, (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) and his lawyer. On June 8th, he pleaded guilty to charges, the investigation of which reflects some important information to those who assume themselves beyond suspicion.
After all, the Defendant had been something of a celebrity. Now in his 60’s, he had had helped found a gay rights group in Provincetown in the early 1990’s. In 1989, he helped form the Provincetown chapter of ACT UP, a group that described itself as diverse and nonpartisan, and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis. He also served on a working group to combat hate crimes.
Now he has been convicted in the cyber-crime of possessing and distributing child pornography.
To make the charges against him seem even more unlikely, they are not even the result of a local investigation. In fact, it was not even initiated within the United States.
The investigation began in 2006. It was the Swiss police that contacted the United States immigration authorities with a list of computer users who were believed to be trading child pornography with a Swiss man, Laurent Boson, according to court records. They had monitored Mr. Boson’s internet activities between March 15, 2006, and June 6, 2006. They arrested him on June 19, 2006. That arrest yielded more information, including a list of computer users who had apparently traded with Boson,
U.S. authorities linked a computer e-mail account and an Internet computer address to the Defendant.
On April 5, 2007, a grand jury in the U.S. District Court in Burlington indicted the Defendant on charges of transporting four images in June 2006 and owning computer materials that contain images of child pornography in March 2007. Two further indictments, on Oct. 2, 2008, and April 16, expanded the charges against him.
And so it was that the Defendant entered a guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vt., on June 8th, admitting he e-mailed a picture of a prepubescent female being sexually abused by a male, according to court records as well as to sending 34 images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct via the Internet and of doing so in a home that he co-owns in Braintree, Vt.
The Defendant will be sentenced in Burlington in October. Meanwhile, he is confined to his home except for approved activities like work or school, with his whereabouts monitored by radio frequency. He is not allowed to use a computer, own pornography and cannot travel outside Vermont or Massachusetts.
Attorney Sam’s Take:
“Hey, Sam”, you begin this morning, “Did you move to Vermont last week? I thought this was the Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog”.
Well, it is…and, no, I have not left the Commonwealth. The crime charged here is being prosecuted in federal court. While certain laws and rules differ in the federal system from state to state, what is illegal actually does not. In other words, this same prosecution could happen tomorrow right here in United States District Court in Boston.
“Why is it a federal crime if it happened in Vermont?”
When a crime otherwise prosecutable by state authorities involves more than one state, or is committed between countries, the federal government has jurisdiction. In this case, the federal authorities were the ones contacted by the Swiss authorities and so they conducted the investigation and prosecution against the Defendant.
It should be noted that this was not simply a case where the Defendant is said to have simply possessed the child pornography. Yes, that would be a crime as well, although more likely to simply be prosecuted in state court. However, he was also charged with the “trafficking” of the images, which simply means transferring them through the internet. This is what makes it federal.
There is no indication that the Defendant has a prior criminal record. In fact, he would seem to have been something quite to the contrary – a social activist who spent his time trying to fight for equal rights, making life better for others.
Unfortunately, such good deeds are no cloak of Teflon when it comes to criminal investigation into activities which some people do not even realize are illegal. There have even been cases where the defendants do not know that the images they possess are of underage people. However, the mere possession of said images, not to mention the trading of them, is illegal and treated quite seriously. The list of surprising defendants convicted for such crimes is surprising. It includes people who have lived varied crime-free lives such as a California well known radio talk show host from KGO-radio to various local and national celebrities.
Surprising or not, ignorance of the law is not a defense. These people have had to pay stiff criminal penalties.
So, the message is the same, if there is any clue that an investigation into any of your activities is afoot, or if you are unsure if what you are doing is legal, it is best to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to advise and, if necessary, protect you.
For the full article concerning today’s posting of the Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, go to http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090623/NEWS/906230316/-1/NEWSMAP