entrapment on the web

There has been a bunch of busts in the last year on child pornography charges. Some of these arrests, I hear, happened after agents sent images to people in a chat room. If the images from the agents are the only illegal material found, how can they convict?

I have viewed sites that shocked me and immediately spent time making sure the images did not remain on my PC. Should I just close the window and not worry about it?

It seems the laws have not yet caught up with technology on some of this stuff. Any insights?


Well, the specifics are anything but clear from your post, but the busts in our area have been on men who actively seek teenage girls. Cops go online and when men are asking for underage girls to chat with and eventually meet, they start chatting with them and develop a relationship. No crime is committed until they meet he “child” AFAIK. Another tactic is to post on BB’s asking for teenage photos to swap or sell, and when the guys take the bait they strike. Entrapment is a very gray area, and i don’t claim to know the finer points.

Is it legal for “agents” to send “illegal images” to people in chat rooms and do they really do that? I doubt either one. I think the latter goes beyond entrapment even.


Hypothetically, what if I download an image, later for some reason its found out that the girl was 16 and I am busted. Images online that aren’t advertised as a underage lolita could be underage, but I had no way of knowing. Am I committing a crime?

A WAG here but I think legality would vary from the state you live. And also the state laws from where the site originates. So that would mean if a European country had 16 as the age of adulthood, you would be busted in your state even if you didn’t know she was underage in your country.

A lot of these laws just haven’t been tested properly, and we won’t know until someone gets charged and challenges it.

I think we’ve all been in the situation where we hit some innocuous-looking link and wind up in some window-spawning hell of porn sites and adult images. It drives me nuts. Some of these things are insidious and will spawn off new pages when you close the current one. If you get trapped in a really agressive site, you can wind up with dozens of images on your hard drive that you didn’t want and had no intention of looking at. Yet if some of these images are of underage kids, you could wind up facing felony charges if the cops confiscate your computer for some unrelated thing (say, an IRS audit, or you sell the computer) and find the images.

“Possession” laws have to be changed to reflect a technology where you can possess things you didn’t want and don’t know you have.

I remember reading about a gay journalist who wanted to interview gay youth for a story. He met a kid on a chat room, arranged to meet him, and got arrested! The kid was police officers trying to entrap someone. How unjust is that?

Omniscient, I wouldn’t assume that you’d be immune to prosecution. Does the name ‘Traci Lords’ mean anything to you?

In NC and several other states, it is against the law to look at any pornographic issues on your personal home computer, no matter the age of the subject.

I don’t know if this law is actively enforced (a la other sex laws on the books) but it still creeps me out.

Yer pal,

I did computer training for our local police force and a female Special Investigations officer told me about the internet case they did. She went on-line in a kiddie chat room, and eventually some dirtbag adult started chatting with her. At some point he sent her adult materials and offered to meet her and have sex. She agreed, and showed up at the assigned place. He was arrested as soon as he approached her and convicted of attempted rape (the idea being that they had entered into an agreement to have sex and he was picking her up for that purpose). That’s how it worked here, anyway.
she never sent him anything, he was the aggressor…Interesting…

Run for the hills, folks! Or you’ll be up to your armpits in martians!

Yeah, Pennsylvania is another state where, the downloading of pornography of any kind is illegal; however, I’ve never heard of anyone getting busted for it. Once I read a story in the local paper about a women getting back her computer from her ex-boyfriend, with whom she had been staying. Supposedly, she found underage pornography, as well as other types of porno on the computer’s hard drive and reported it to the police. The arresting officer made a statement saying the regular stuff wasn’t a major concern and they were only going to charge the guy with the under age stuff.

The deal here is that I know someone who has been indicted. After recieving two images of underage models from someone in a chat room, his apartment was raided and the two images were found in the cache though they had been deleted elsewhere. He says he has been offered some deals if he helps them to catch others but when he told them where he got the two images they told him that they knew that already as they had sent them to him. he says they have threatened him with charges of distribution. This sounds farfetched to me but he seems genuinely scared and is someone I wouldn’t expect to just make this up. This is taking place in Minnesota, by the way.

This illustrates the benefits of living in a state where law enforcement has better things to do with their time and resources.

As far as entrapment goes, I remember as case where a guy was trolling for underage girls in a chat room and got hooked up with an undercover policewoman. This was in the D.C. metro area and the guy was in MD. The officer refused to meet him unless it was in D.C.; so when he agreed and showed up in D.C., he was promptly busted for crossing a state line in addition for whatever other charges that should apply. Now, I think this scumbag needed to be busted, but he had tried to meet “his girl” in MD and the only reason why he went to D.C. was the fact the “his girl” refused to meet him anywhere else (except maybe VA). Was he entrapped into crossing state lines? IIRC, his lawyer made this argument (I’m not sure how it turned out).

      • I don’t know about elsewhere, but it seems that when they bust a guy (usually) for kiddy porn they find hundreds of images, at least - not just a few, and the images are being traded with other people, not posted on a site anywhere. - Now I am kinda wondering how much “evidence” is supplied by the cops, as opposed to how much the perv manages to turn up on his own. - MC

Here in Central Florida, a girl complained to her mother that a man was making improper suggestions in a chat room. The mother told the police and they told the girl to set up a meeting. The police used the girl (13 years old) as bait. She sat on a park bench with the guy and gave the ‘code’ word to alert police when he touched her breast!

The chief of police has promised that this tactic will not be used in the future. No disciplinary action will be taken against the detectives who made this ridiculous decision.

The man turned out to be an engineering professor at an area college.

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According to my lawyer friend, you’re liable for anything that gets onto your computer. Buddy of yours e-mails you that .avi of the blond and the dalmation? You can be busted and so can he, unless you know how to destroy all evidence that you downloaded it. No matter that you didn’t know what it was and didn’t want it once you did. Right now law enforcement is trolling for test cases in order to more fully define what they can and cannot get away with. That makes life dangerous for you, innocent wanderer that you are.

However, computer people are almost invariably more clever than bureaucracies. The porno site www.whitehouse.com receives thousands of hits every week (and good advertising money as a result), many of them by government employees trying to find the President’s latest press conference schedule or whatever.

Someday soon some idiot agency is going to release a statistic about “pornography is on 75% of all government computers, blah, blah, blah,” and then it will come out that most government employees have had inadequate training and don’t know the difference between a .com and a .gov.

Government officials will probably blame the website.

It is? Even if it’s not a minor? Wow! Sounds like something you’d expect out of an iron curtain country, not the good old yoo ess aye.

I guess the moral here is: use a good encrypted filesystem. Understand where your software puts cache files, and understand that deleting files doesn’t necessarily remove all evidence of them.

One of the problems here is that there are many more ways for something to “get on your computer” than you asking for it. Things may be there that you’re not even aware of.

peas on earth

      • If porn files glowed, cops could see my computer from Mars. I don’t have anything that involves kids, but examples of everything else are likely floating around in there somewhere. - And besides, I’m only interested for artistic purposes - good lighting and camera angle are critical when you’re shooting those blonde + dalmation .avi’s. - MC

The lighting (among other things) generally sucks in those avi’s. Someone usually needs to (as Cecil once said) “Slap a jelly on the baby.” Btw, it’s “Dalmatian.”

Does “format C:” still work?
[Note: This message has been edited by Nickrz]