Utah Supreme Court Upholds Computer-Generated CP Conviction

Tod Hunter
SALT LAKE CITY — A transgender Utah woman who appealed a guilty verdict after the jury was told computer-generated images of nude minors are illegal — despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning a similar federal law — has had her guilty verdict upheld by the Utah Supreme Court.

The case started when Lexis Alinas, 47, allegedly was looking at a website called "Little Girls Extreme" in the University of Utah's Marriott Library. A librarian alerted library security, who spoke with Alinas and confirmed that she had been viewing child pornography. University police were called in, and Alinas was arrested and searched. The search discovered two floppy disks in Alinas' coat pocket, which the officer said contained images of nude female children, along with images of nude adult women.

Alinas was charged with seven counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. She testified during her trial that from a very young age she had struggled with her sexual identity. She said she had been dressing as a woman for approximately 17 years and considers herself to be a woman. The pictures, Alinas said, were downloaded to aid in her search for self-awareness and to "represent the way I felt that I should have been born." A news article reported that Alinas' driver's license said she was female, that she tried hormones to develop breast tissue, and that she could not afford a sex change operation.

Jurors were told that to convict Alinas, they had to determine that she possessed a "visual depiction, photograph, picture or computer-generated image or picture of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct." That instruction, involving computer-generated pictures, differed from the U.S. Supreme Court's 2002 ruling in the Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition case, a point that Alinas' defense attorney made.

The jury found her guilty on all counts. She was given a suspended sentence with credit for 607 days served and placed on probation for three years. When Salinas appealed her conviction to the Utah Supreme Court, the court affirmed her conviction.

In its opinion, the Utah Supreme Court said, "Alinas focuses his argument on the instructions' use of the term 'computer-generated,' a common phrase between the Child Pornography Prevention Act and the instructions in this case. He argues that the use of this language potentially allowed the jury to convict him for possessing 'virtual child pornography, which [the] Ashcroft [decision] forbids.

"We disagree," the court said.

The Utah Supreme Court found that the images in question were determined by the jury to be of real children, not computer-generated ones.

The Utah Supreme Court's decision can be read here.