In Tennessee, the crime of sexual exploitation of a minor is committed by the knowing possession of child pornography. Generally the crime is a class D felony, which, for a standard offender, carries a range of punishment of two to four years. But if there are more than fifty images, it is a class C felony. And if there are more than one hundred images (or combination of images and materials), it is a class B felony, with a range of punishment for a standard offender of eight to twelve years. Distribution or production of child pornography are more serious offenses. In the recent case of State v. Sprunger, E2011-02579-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 4-5-2013), the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence of a defendant for the crime of sexual exploitation of a minor.
In the Sprunger case, the defendant had taken his computer to a computer repair service, apparently to restore data from the hard drive. The defendant provided a password for access to the computer. Upon examination of data on the computer, the repair service found what appeared to be child pornography. They contacted the police and the police took possession of the machine.
A forensic examination of the computer revealed digital images for which the defendant was charged with possession of more than one-hundred images of child pornography. A search of the defendant’s home and additional computers did not find any more unlawful images. According to a state investigator, the defendant told him they would not find any “more” images of child pornography at his home. The defendant lived alone and was the only person with access to the computer upon which the images were found. A TBI computer forensics examiner testified about finding several folders on the defendant’s computer containing the unlawful images. Some of the images were in unallocated space, indicating they had been deleted from the recycle bin. According the examiner, the computer was not infected with a virus and had not been hacked.
The defendant testified he had never seen the images in question on his computer and did not know how they got there. He said he had noticed an annoying pop-up asking him to make a back-up of the computer. He said did not tell an investigator that they wouldn’t find “any more” child pornography at his home but that they wouldn’t find any there.
The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the jury conviction for sexual exploitation of a minor and affirmed the eight year sentence ordered to serve in confinement (to be served at 100%).
For more information on sufficiency of the evidence for a specific criminal charge, contact Hindman & Associates.