CounterPunch: More Secret Payments Surface in Berry Case

CounterPunch: More Secret Payments Surface in Berry Case
Q Boyer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — During court proceedings in Nashville this week, additional evidence has surfaced indicating that former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald clandestinely paid a source for a 2005 story on child porn websites more than the $2,000 previously uncovered.

According to CounterPunch.org, a news website that is challenging requests by Eichenwald’s attorneys to seal all documents in the case, federal district judge Aleta Trauger denied Eichenwald’s bid to close the courtroom to the public and otherwise shield information in the case from being disseminated.

In March, the Times disclosed that Eichenwald had paid Berry $2,000, and stated that the “check should have been disclosed to editors and readers, like the other actions on the youth’s behalf.”

Eichenwald conceded that “I should have told my editors,” but maintained that the payment had “just slipped away amid the 18 hour days, seven days a week of turmoil and chaos.”

According to CounterPunch, information revealed during court hearings in Nashville this week indicates that Eichenwald had made more than just the one-time payment of $2,000. Eichenwald reportedly used a fake name and address to give Berry money even prior to working on the story for the Times.

Eichenwald’s 2005 article eventually resulted in the arrest and conviction of four men who had given Berry money and gifts, and otherwise assisted in running his self-depicting child porn site.

At the time that Eichenwald’s story was originally published in the Times, Joan Irvine, executive director of ASACP, also noted that several large mainstream companies were unwittingly involved in providing funds for the illegal site Berry maintained, underscoring the difficulty in combating the spread of child pornography online.

“There are a number of companies that are unknowingly used as hosting companies for child pornography,” Irvine told XBIZ at the time. “That includes billing companies and sites like Yahoo and eGold.com.”

After his criminal trial, attorneys for Tim Richards, one of the men convicted in the wake of Eichenwald’s story being published, continued to seek out evidence and information that could lead to a reduced sentence for their client, or to support a motion for a new trial.

According to CounterPunch, Richards’ attorney Kimberly Hodde told the court that while examining hard drives connected to the case, investigators found that in May or June of 2005, someone going by the name “Andrew McDonald” used PayPal to send money to Berry from Dallas, Texas, where Eichenwald lives. The individual used a Yahoo email address and an AOL address that the FBI had previously determined belonged to Eichenwald.

In court, Richards’ attorneys said they then subpoenaed information from PayPal, which yielded a fake street address and two credit card numbers used to make the payments to Berry under the name Andrew McDonald. They then subpoenaed information from the credit card companies to find out who owned the credit cards, and subpoenaed Yahoo and AOL, as well.

Eichenwald’s attorney Tim Perkins filed motions to quash the subpoenas, and to seal all filings and information related to the motions, including the fact that the motions pertained to Eichenwald.

Hodde argued in court that the subpoenas should not be quashed because the information sought was relevant for Richards’ sentencing, and the PayPal payments suggest that Eichenwald “assisted in orchestrating the revival” of Berry’s illegal child porn site. Hodde said that Richards will use the PayPal and credit card data to argue that he was entrapped by Berry and others, including Eichenwald.

Perkins dismissed Hodde’s arguments as “conspiracy theories.”

Ultimately, Trauger denied the motions to quash the subpoenas, holding that as the additional payments Eichenwald made to Berry were not previously known to the government, they had “some relevance to the defense.”

Trauger said she will consider the new evidence when she sentences Richards, because the dates of the payments Eichenwald made to Berry were “so close to some of the timing involved in this case.”

Officials involved in the prosecution of Richards declined to comment on whether Eichenwald is under investigation for possible criminal wrongdoing in connection with the payments he made to Berry.