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7th Circuit upholds child porn convictions

March 14, 2018

A man convicted on multiple child pornography charges has lost his appeal before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals after the appellate panel found no error warranting reversal of his convictions.

In United States of America v. Timothy Ryan, 16-4048, Illinois police used a peer-to-peer file sharing program to download child pornography from a computer in Timothy Ryan’s home, leading to an FBI search warrant of the house. The search found hundreds of child porn files downloaded onto a desktop computer, a program used to block certain IP addresses from accessing the files, a list of law enforcement IP addresses, an encryption program and a folder with child porn photos and videos.

A grand jury indictment subsequently handed down against Ryan charged him with possessing, receiving and distributing child porn, and also called for the forfeiture of unspecified property. After the Indiana Northern District Court denied his motion to substitute counsel — filed five days before his trial began — Ryan was found guilty as charged as was sentenced to 157 months in prison.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Ryan’s convictions and sentence on Tuesday, with Judge Michael Kanne writing the denial of his motion to substitute counsel was proper because Ryan was not prejudiced. The district court did not err in finding no breakdown in communication between Ryan and his attorney, Kanne said, though the appellate panel advised the district court to hold hearings on such issues outside of the presence of the prosecutor, unlike what was done here.

Next, the circuit court determined that even though Ryan “passively” distributed child porn by allowing others to download the files stored on his computer, that course of action meets the legal definition of “distribution” as applied here. Thus, the evidence supported Ryan’s distribution conviction and his related sentencing enhancement, the court said.

Finally, the appellate panel upheld the forfeiture of Ryan’s computer, with Kanne writing that though the government violated Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.2(b)(5)(A), Ryan did not object at trial. Further, no reasonable juror could have found a lack of a sufficient nexus between the computer and Ryan’s offenses, so the error was harmless.

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