Recent Leon County Arrests for Child Pornography
February 1, 2023 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes Social Share
A person who is alleged to have child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on one of their digital devices is likely to be charged with possession of child pornography. Child pornography charges can be enforced by both State and Federal law, with some of the most severe penalties.
This article will provide information on the differences between possession and distribution charges, federal charges, and example cases of recent child pornography charges in Leon County.
Difference Between Possession and Distribution
Child pornography is defined as any image which depicts a minor engaged in sexual conduct. A minor is considered any person who is younger than 18 years old. It is against Florida law for any person to knowingly possess, control, or view in any form child pornography.
Child pornography could be depicted in any of the following examples:
- Exhibition or Show
- Date Files on a Computer
- Downloaded or Streamed Videos
Under Florida Statute Section 827.071(5)(a), a person who has been accused of possessing child pornography can be charged with a third-degree felony. The penalties for a third-degree felony include up to a $5,000 fine, up to five years in prison, or both.
Important: Florida law states that the possession, control, or intentional viewing of each such photo, video, exhibition, data, computer depiction, or representation of child pornography shall be charged as a separate offense.
Under the same Statute, the law explains that a person in the possession of three or more copies of a photo, video, exhibition, depiction, or representation of child pornography can be charged with possession with the intent to promote. It is considered prima facie—sufficient to establish as fact or raise the presumption unless disproved—that a person possessing three or more items considered to be child pornography to have the intent to promote or distribute it.
The intent to “promote” is defined as to procure, manufacture, issue, sell, give, provide, lend, mail, deliver, transfer, transmute, publish, distribute, circulate, disseminate, present, exhibit, or advertise.
A person accused of possessing child pornography with the intent to distribute it can be charged with a second-degree felony. The penalties for a second-degree felony in Florida include up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison. When being charged with a child pornography crime, each item of CSAM could each result in an additional 15 years.
In addition to being charged by the State of Florida, a person accused of possessing child pornography can face federal charges as well. Under 18 U.S.C. § 2252, a person who violates the federal child pornography law can be sentenced to 5 to 20 years in a federal prison.
In federal cases for possession of child pornography, the sentence the defendant may receive can depend on a variety of factors, including:
- Case facts and specific circumstances
- Acceptance of responsibility (if any)
- Criminal History
A person who is charged with a second or subsequent federal charge for possession of child pornography, or any laws of any state relating to aggravated sexual abuse involving a minor can be sentenced to up to 40 years in federal prison, with a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years.
The following are examples of recent arrests made in Leon County in relation to child pornography charges:
- James Linton – The Dekalb County Police Department in Georgia contacted LCSO in February 2022 regarding an active investigation involving a man in Florida who was possibly soliciting minors online. The two departments began a joint investigation, in which they found the suspect was a Leon County Sheriff’s Office corrections officer, James Linton. The ICAC unit found through the investigation that Linton had been purchasing and possessing child sexual abuse material (CSAM) online, as well as distributing it to a minor believed by him to be a 14-year-old who was in the jurisdiction of Leon County. Linton was arrested on November 4th, 2022 after LCSO obtained a warrant for the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force to make the arrest. Linton has also been terminated from his position as a LCSO correctional officer.
- Aggravated Possession of Child Pornography (20 counts)
- Distribution of Child Pornography (1 count)
- Use of a Computer to Solicit/Seduce/Lure a Child (1 count)
- Andrew John Ewing – Leon County’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) unit charged Ewing with multiple counts of child pornography possession. The investigation conducted by the unit’s detectives uncovered the subject was actively downloading several child sexual abuse material (CSAM) images. Ewing, 38, was provided a search warrant from LCSO on January 23rd, 2023. After seizing several electronic and giving a preliminary analysis, detectives found 16 images and 4 videos of CSAM. Ewing has been charged with 20 counts of Aggravated Possession of Child Pornography—due to him already being a registered sex offender in the state of Florida. The defendant failed to provide his location and other information required by registered sex offenders, which resulted in the additional charge for violating the requirements.
- Obscene Material-Possession Photograph of Sexual Performance by a Child (20 counts)
- Sexual Predator Violation – Fail to Provide Location and Other Information (2 counts)
How to Defend a Child Pornography Allegation
Criminal cases involving minors are extremely sensitive, and require an aggressive defense to prove the defendant’s innocence to the jury. The prosecution is likely to try and fight for the harshest penalties in a child pornography case. However, there are cases in which the accused person had no idea the CSAM was on their device—which is becoming more common as the online world continues to become more advanced.
The following is a list of possible defenses to use in a possession of child pornography case:
- Lack of evidence – It can be difficult to prove the defendant had the intent to view and engage with a single image or video of CSAM. A defense attorney may be able to prove that there is a lack of evidence of the defendant’s intent or a lack of evidence to prove that the criminal offense occurred.
- Lack of intent – There are some instances in which the defendant did not intentionally view the CSAM images or videos—whether it be from an unknown download or someone purposefully sending CSAM to the defendant’s device.
- CSAM did not belong to the defendant – In some cases, the defendant may have found the CSAM as spam or as an unknown file downloaded to their device without their knowledge.
Just as the authorities will undergo an investigation to review all of the data from the defendant’s digital devices, a skilled defense attorney may advise working with a computer forensic expert. A computer forensic expert witness can do a cross investigation and acquire, retrieve, and analyze digital evidence used in a criminal case.
To read more about how a computer forensic expert can help with a criminal investigation, read our blog post here.
The best way to determine which defenses are applicable to your personal case, we advise speaking with a defense attorney in your area.
Finding a Sex Crime Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
Charges for possessing and distributing child pornography have some of the most extreme consequences in Florida. This is partially due to each piece of CSAM evidence being charged as a separate offense. An innocent person who unknowingly had CSAM downloaded to their device could end up facing more than a person convicted of a first-degree felony. That being considered, it is of the utmost importance to work with an experienced Tallahassee sex crime defense attorney.
Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have years of experience representing Florida citizens accused of criminal offenses. We will work tirelessly to provide the best support and work towards protecting your future. Contact us today for a free consultation regarding your case at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.
Written by Karissa Key