August 26, 2005 4:00 AM PDT

Police blotter: Navy officer loses porn appeal

"Police blotter" is a weekly report on the intersection of technology and the law. This episode: A Navy lieutenant loses a child porn appeal.

What: A Navy officer appeals his conviction on child pornography charges.

When: Decided July 19 by the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals.

Outcome: Sentence of 12 months imprisonment and dismissal upheld.

What happened: When Brendan Forney was serving on the destroyer U.S.S. David R. Ray, he amassed a collection of more than 50,000 image files, according to the court. Some included photographs of underage "girls having their genitalia exposed and/or engaged in sex acts with adults," in the words of the court.

Forney, a lieutenant junior grade in the U.S. Naval Reserve, was discovered in March 2000 when the ship's system administrator noticed a home directory that took up an unusual amount of disk space. After poking around, the system administrator discovered the directory contained child pornography.

When the ship returned to port, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service took over the investigation and found cached Web pages titled "Lo-li-ta.com," "YoungandWild.com" and "Underage.org." Investigators also seized child porn on hard drives at Forney's off-base apartment.

Forney confessed to downloading up to 1,800 images while serving on the David R. Ray. A general court-martial convicted him of possessing child pornography and conduct unbecoming an officer.

Forney appealed his sentence of 12 months imprisonment and dismissal, alleging procedural errors and saying that his photo collection was similar to works such as David Hamilton's art nude book--which includes photographs of nude minors.

The court disagreed, concluding that "the images that the appellant downloaded and possessed are easily distinguishable from the 'art works' presented by the appellant on appeal."

Excerpt from the appeals court's opinion: "We have no difficulty concluding that at a minimum the appellant attempted to wrongly possess child pornography. We reach this determination by examining the pictures properly admitted as Prosecution Exhibits, coupled with the appellant's admissions that he searched the Internet for pictures of nude girls, ages 10-15, engaged in sex acts with adults. He found these photographs erotic, became sexually aroused by them, and masturbated while viewing them. We also have no difficulty concluding that the appellant's conduct, under the circumstances proven by the prosecution, constituted conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman."

 

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