Child Pornographer Loses Appeal

Michael Hayes
PORTLAND, Ore. – The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of an American man who posted child pornography on a Croatian website.

Loren Williamson, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison, appealed his case on 1st and 4th Amendment grounds. Citing case law that requires the police to show a warrant before entering the premises, counsel for Williamson argued that the evidence seized should be suppressed because the officers only presented the warrant upon exiting the premises.

“Suppression [of evidence] is a tough remedy to swallow in a criminal case, because the idea is to seek the truth,” J.D. Obenberger, a Chicago-based attorney, said. “In this case, the court got the law right, but came down the other way.”

The court agreed with Williamson that officers should have shown him the warrant before entering his home but said suppressing the evidence found was not necessary in this case because the error was merely technical and therefore did not rise to a constitutional issue.

According to Obenberger, those who are confronted by police officers intent on searching their premises should demand to see the warrant before allowing the police to proceed.

Williamson also appealed his case by arguing that the warrant was not valid because it did not specify the nature of the materials to be seized.

“This was an interesting argument,” Obenberger said. “Sometimes search and seizure cases where the materials in question have 1st Amendment protection create this overbroad issue. Simply saying ‘seize all pornography’ is too broad, because it puts too much emphasis on the arresting officer using his own subjective test.”

In this case the court found that the warrant, which directed officers to search for child pornography, was not overbroad because it also outlined a standard similar to what is found in 2256.

According to Obenberger, the specific issue raised here, whether the warrant excluded virtual material, probably puts too high a burden on law enforcement.

“The difference between computer-generated images that look like children, which are protected, and the real thing, which isn’t, is too hard to determine in the field,” Obenberger told XBiz. “The important thing is that warrants give enough guidance to officers when they go to search.”

Barring further appeals, Williamson will serve 15 years for his crimes.