In United States v. Carroll, No. 16-16652 (Apr. 5, 2018) (Wilson, Dubina, Goldberg), the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the defendant’s child pornography convictions.
First, the Court concluded that a warrant affidavit supported the conclusion that there was probable cause to believe that child pornography would be found in the defendant’s home. The affiant explained how peer to peer file sharing worked and how the officers used the program to identify the defendant’s IP address. The Court rejected the defendant’s argument that the issuing magistrate was required to personally review the pornographic material. The Court also rejected the defendant’s argument that the warrant failed to satisfy the particularity requirement, because it detailed the types of electronic items to be seized in the home.
Second, the Court found the evidence sufficient to uphold the defendant’s possession conviction, because there was evidence that he knowingly possessed the images: although the files were discovered in an unallocated space on his computer and were deleted, there was evidence that he regularly and manually downloaded files to his computer over an 11-month period.
However, the Court concluded concluded that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the defendant’s distribution conviction, because there was no evidence that he knew he was sharing child pornography when they were automatically placed in a shared folder. There was nothing in the record to indicate that he was aware that the items in this folder were automatically distributed to the peer to peer network, and the mere fact that he used a peer to peer program was insufficient by itself. The record did not include any indication that the program prompted the defendant to chose to share downloaded files, enabled a sharing function, or accepted a licensing agreement that involved setting up a shared folder.
Finally, the Court affirmed sentencing enhancements for possession of more than 600 images and for possessing sadistic or masochistic conduct. As to the former, the Court counted files located in the unallocated location because the defendant manually downloaded them. As to the latter, the offenses depicted vaginal and anal penetration of young girls, and that sufficed. And this was not double counting because they were not fully accounted for in the base offense level.