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Defendant's Guilty Plea to Child Pornography Charges Valid

A Criminal Defendant who has entered a guilty plea and later believes that he was coerced or that he received ineffective assistance of counsel (which could be receiving bad legal advice or insufficient legal advice regarding the charges and the consequences of the plea) may file a post-conviction petition with the trial court to seek to invalidate the guilty plea. In the recent case of Henson v. State, E2012-00856-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn.Crim.App. 11-26-2012), the Defendant had pled guilty to multiple criminal charges, including aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. The sexual exploitation charge arose from images discovered on his computer, which had been placed in a share folder on his computer connected to a peer-to-peer file sharing network.

Though the Defendant originally pled guilty to the charges, he later filed a post-conviction petition alleging that his plea was involuntary due to his lack of understanding of the rights he was waiving and of the consequences of his guilty plea, which included a substantial prison sentence. In seeking to vacate the conviction, the Defense argued, among other things, that he was mentally impaired at the time of the guilty plea, that his attorney did not sufficiently communicate with him, and that his attorney told him his incarceration would be at a mental facility with a fence around it.

In the Defendant's interviews during the initial investigation, he claimed the pornography on his computer must have been downloaded by other people. Those people all denied downloading any pornography onto the Defendant's computer and most denied ever using the Defendant's computer. In another interview, the Defendant indicated to investigators he had downloaded the images. The Defendant's sister testified at the post-conviction hearing that she had to set up the software on the Defendant's computer and assist him to use it and that he had no ability to install file sharing software or to set up a share folder. The Defendant's testimony at the hearing conceded he had told investigators that he downloaded the images and that someone else had taught him how to do it.

After considering the evidence presented at the hearing, the trial court found the Defendant's guilty plea to be valid. That determination was affirmed on appeal.

For more information regarding challenges to guilty pleas or regarding Internet crimes, contact Hindman & Associates.

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