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2 Polk County Men Arrested for Child Porn, File Sharing Blamed

Recently, the Polk County Sheriff's Office served two search warrants on homes in Lakeland and Mulberry. In each case, the men were arrested for allegedly possessing child pornography based on preliminary forensic analyses of the men's computers.

It's not clear, however, that the Lakeland man actually possessed anything illegal, and it seems that either or both men may have unintentionally downloaded the images via online file sharing programs.

According to the Daily Ridge, in the Lakeland case, Polk County deputies had somehow developed information that the resident of an apartment had offered to share alleged child pornography online. The resident denied having any child pornography, but said he had peer-to-peer video downloading software on his computer.

In their preliminary search, the deputies only found one file that might legally be considered child pornography -- a video described as depicting a nude, four- to five-year-old girl in a lewd manner. All of the other suspicious images were reportedly drawings or animations, which would not be illegal.

Yet since the beginning of home photography, parents have been taking playful pictures of children in the bathtub or engaging in other forms of perfectly innocent nudity. Such images are not child pornography because no child is being sexually exploited. Nevertheless, many parents have been wrongfully arrested for possessing such images or videos. Without a detailed review of the questionable video, it's impossible to know if it was actually pornographic.

In the Mulberry case, deputies apparently did find 40 videos said to depict sexual conduct by children. The man admitted there might be additional illegal images on his computer but, like the Lakeland man, he insisted they were downloaded only unintentionally via a file sharing program. He reportedly stated his belief that the videos involved no harm to the children involved.

Complete examinations of each computer will be needed to discover how many images may exist, how they were obtained, and whether they are actually pornographic. Meanwhile, the Lakeland man faces one count of possessing child pornography; the Mulberry man faces numerous counts.

Unfortunately, whenever people are accused of child pornography offenses, both the police and the press tend to presume guilt instead of innocence. Press reports -- typically drawn solely from police information -- often don't answer questions crucial to the determination of guilt. How did the deputies discover the information leading to these arrests? Were the images unintentionally downloaded?

The Polk County Sheriff's Office has vigorously pursued child pornography cases and conducts numerous online sting operations that have resulted in frequent and numerous arrests.

Source: The Daily Ridge, "PCSO Arrest Two Men In Separate Instances Yesterday Accused of Child Pornography," Oct. 11, 2013

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