Largest Child Pornography Website Shutdown by Federal Prosecutors
The operator of the world’s largest child pornography file-sharing website site located in South Korea was indicted by United States federal prosecutors on federal child porn charges. They filed multiple charges against him for what they called the “world’s largest dark web child porn marketplace.”
Jong Woo Son, 23, was already serving an 18-month prison sentence in South Korea on similar charges. The child porn website he operated, “Welcome to Video,” was only accessible to an anonymous network – but ICE federal law enforcement agents were able to access crucial information from the “view page source” on the homepage.
The source code didn’t conceal the server’s IP address and agents were able to obtain defendant’s name and address. They also discovered there were around 250,000 videos that showed toddlers and children being sexually abused. Over 20 minors were eventually identified and were rescued due to the federal criminal investigation.
Federal prosecutors said the child pornography website started operating in June 2015 and was seized and shutdown by federal law enforcement in March 2018. They also announced the arrest of over 300 suspected users of the website worldwide.
Most of the videos seized were not known to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and many of the children in the videos have not yet been identified.
Federal Child Pornography Charges - 18 U.S.C. § 2252
18 U.S.C. § 2252 defines child pornography as “any visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.” In simple terms, a “visual depiction” is photo, video, or a digital image.
A minor is simply anyone who is under 18 years old. “Sexually explicit conduct” can include a wide range of sexual related activity, including intercourse, masturbation and any lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of someone else, or even nudity if it’s sexually suggestive.
18 U.S.C. § 2252 makes it a federal crime to produce, distribute, receive or possess any child pornography. It’ also illegal to knowingly search for and view child pornography – even in situations where the child porn images were deleted.
If you are convicted of a federal child pornography offense, you are facing a significant amount of time in a federal prison. For example, a conviction for knowingly possessing child pornography carries a 10-year sentence. If the minor who was depicted in the image was under 12-years old, you are facing a 20-year sentence.
If convicted of distributing or receiving child pornography, you are facing a 5 to 20-year prison sentence. These sentences will be significantly increased if you have a prior conviction.
Additionally, you will be facing fines and restitution payments that are often required to any victim of the offense that has been identified. Finally, a conviction for a child pornography offense in federal court will of course require you to register as a sex offender.
Sexual Exploitation of Children Charges - 18 U.S.C. § 2251
18 U.S.C. § 2251, sexual exploitation of children is a similar federal law, but a separate crime that covers production of child pornography.
It’s defined as anyone who attempts to induce, persuade or entice a minor to engage in sexual related activity for the purpose of making a video, picture or other types of images is guilty of the crime of sexual exploitation. Again, under federal child porn law, a minor simply means anyone who is under 18 years old.
It should be noted that you can still be prosecuted for sexual exploitation even in situations where all the illegal sexual related conduct occurred outside of the United States – just as the South Korean man was indicted for operating a child pornography website above.
However, in order to prosecute someone who is allegedly producing child pornography in a foreign country, a federal prosecutor has to be able to prove – beyond reasonable doubt – they had intent to send or make available child pornography to people in here in the United States.
Again, like above, if you are convicted of 18 U.S.C. § 2251, sexual exploitation of children, you are facing severe penalties. For example, the mandatory minimum sentence is 15 years and the maximum is 30 years in a federal prison.
It should be noted the exact federal sentence for a child pornography or sexual exploitation conviction will always depend on a wide range of factors and the calculation of the advisory federal sentencing guidelines.
For example, in an 18 U.S.C. § 2252 child pornography case, the sentence will normally depend on the amount of child porn images or videos that was possessed or distributed, and the age of the minors shown in the sexual conduct.
Finally, there are also enhancements for anyone who has engaged in a pattern of similar conduct – even in situations where they were never before charged or convicted of a sexual related offense.
Related Federal Child Pornography Offenses
18 U.S.C. 2251A – Selling and Buying of Children
18 U.S.C. 2251(d) - Advertising Child Pornography
18 U.S.C. 2251(d) and (e) - Conspiracy to Advertise Child Pornography
18 U.S.C. 2252(a) and (b)(1) - Conspiracy to Distribute Child Pornography
18 U.S.C. 2252(a)(2) - Distribution of Child Pornography
18 U.S.C. 2260(b) - Production of Sexually Explicit Depictions of Minors to Import into United States
18 U.S.C. 1956(a)(2)(A) - Laundering of Monetary Instruments
Defenses to Federal Child Pornography Charges
At Eisner Gorin LLP, our nationwide federal criminal defense lawyers understand the difficulties defending anyone who has been indicted for a federal child pornography or sexual exploitation offense.
However, we have a record of success and can challenge the evidence in prosecutor’s case on some crucial elements.
Images are not minors
This many sound too obvious and simple, but in some situations, we could make an argument the people depicted in the images or videos are not minors. It might be possible the person depicted is at least 18 years old. Remember, the burden of proof lies with the prosecutor, not the defense attorney. In some cases, it may not be so obvious images are in fact a minor.
Improper Computer Search
Our law firm can obtain the services of a computer forensic expert to help us investigate whether the federal law enforcement investigators conducted a proper search of your computer or other electronic devices to find the child porn evidence used against you.
As a result of this review, we might be able to make an argument you did not knowingly possess the child porn images – but rather were inadvertently obtained and promptly deleted. In other words, the forensic expert could assist us in proving any child pornography images could have been downloaded by mistake – and were included with legal adult pornography. Perhaps our expert could even show you were not using child porn internet search terms on your computer.
Finally, maybe we could make a reasonable argument your computer was maliciously accessed by peer-to-peer networks and software that allowed distribution of child pornography without your knowledge.
If you are under investigation or already indicted for federal child pornography or sexual exploitation of children charges, contact our law firm to review the details and legal options. Early intervention into you case by our law firm can be critical to the outcome.
Eisner Gorin LLP
1875 Century Park E #705
Los Angeles, CA 90067