Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Sharing files risky, ballplayer finds out
Crime » Utahn claims no knowledge of child-porn images, but it won’t be easy to prove.
First Published Nov 30 2012 07:26 am • Last Updated Apr 08 2013 11:32 pm

That file you downloaded may seem innocent: a generically numbered video or a photo with a one-word label.

But the images inside may be sinister and illegal.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

As a Cedar City football player attempts to defend himself against felony charges for what he claims is unintentional possession of child porn, experts warn that peer-to-peer file sharing carries the risk of downloading criminal material and can land users in a justice system that may have little patience for "accidents."

Cameron Morgan, now 22, was a sophomore at Southern Utah University in September 2010, when investigators with the state Attorney General’s Office flagged his household’s Internet account as a "download candidate" for child-pornography files on LimeWire, a file-sharing program that has since been shut down by a federal judge. According to court documents, Morgan told investigators he used LimeWire to access adult pornography by searching terms such as "hot girls," downloading everything on the results page and then viewing the contents later.

Morgan said he had come across child pornography, but he deleted it, investigators wrote. According to court documents, investigators identified 12 files containing child pornography and filed charges in connection with 10 of them; Morgan allegedly claimed that any child pornography still on his computer got there unnoticed in a larger download.

Pattern and volume » That explanation is plausible, said Hanni M. Fakhoury, an attorney specializing in technology for the digital civil liberties advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"LimeWire is, for better or for worse, a way by which you can obtain a ton of stuff very quickly," Fakhoury said. "Many people do label their child porn descriptively, but lots of people just bunch files together: ‘Look, here’s a big batch of adult porn.’ ... If you download 100 files, you may look at the first 10 and just leave the rest in a folder somewhere."

But that defense may not hold up in court, said Fakhoury. State and federal child-porn statutes require the government to show only that a defendant "knowingly" possessed the material.

"It doesn’t matter whether [a defendant] actually viewed them or whether he saw the file name and just left it alone — that’s enough" to satisfy the requirements of the charge, Fakhoury said.

story continues below
story continues below

The Iron County prosecutor’s office reviewed Morgan’s case in 2011 and declined to prosecute. County Attorney Scott Garrett said only that the evidence was insufficient and would not discuss which elements of the crime would be too difficult to prove to a jury. However, he did say that in most child-pornography cases, he looks for evidence that will not leave jurors wondering whether possession was deliberate.

"What we like to look for is patterns so you can prove intent," Garrett said. "We look for search [terms] ... and volume."

Volume is notably absent in Morgan’s case, said his attorney, Keith Barnes.

"This is the first case where I have seen or represented someone charged for this offense with a few images … found on a computer. I’ve had a number of clients in state and federal court on child pornography. They’re in the hundreds or thousands of images found. Clearly on those, there’s a pattern. There’s a number of downloads, and the computer is … full of child porn. This, we’re talking about an alleged 10 images of child pornography pulled off the computer in question."

Fakhoury, a former public defender in federal court, agreed.

"I’ve seen cases where people have tens of thousands of files," he said. "Part of the reason is, it’s very risky to go after those types of files. If you get one, you’re going to keep it. That’s typically the pattern I’ve seen."

Investigators and prosecutors from the state Attorney General’s Office declined to comment on Morgan’s case, including whether they found more illicit files than were indicated in the charges or why he was charged two years after the investigation.

‘Negative repercussions’ » Even if possession of child pornography amounts to little content, it may be hard for a defendant to sell jurors on the claim that he did not notice anything suspicious in the files’ labels.

"If the files themselves have names that leave little to the imagination," Fakhoury said, "it’s going to be more difficult for him to argue he didn’t know what the actual files were."

In the charges against Morgan, investigators identified two images and a video with explicit file names containing terms such as "Lolita" "preteen," "underage," "childporn" and "pedo." Nine others were labeled only with numbers or with the word "girlfriends."

Next Page >

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.