pageok
pageok
pageok
Releasing Copies of Evidence = Violation of Federal Child Porn Laws?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (thanks to How Appealing for the pointer):

Douglas County District Attorney David McDade violated federal law when he distributed a videotape from a rape and child molestation case to legislators and journalists, the U.S. attorney's office said Wednesday.

U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said federal law prohibited distributing the videotape because it depicted minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and warned that people who had received it would be in violation of federal child pornography laws.

The videotape was of the raunchy party in a Douglasville hotel room that led to the conviction of Genarlow Wilson on aggravated child molestation charges. Wilson was 17 at the time and the tape showed him receiving consensual oral sex from a 15-year-old girl. The video has been given to both reporters and legislators....

McDade told The Associated Press he was required to release the tape under the state's Open Records Act because it was introduced as evidence at the trial.

The distribution of such material would indeed normally be child pornography; and the federal child pornography ban would preempt any state law to the contrary. The questions, I take it, would be:

(1) Is there some implicit exception to the federal law as to videos such as this one, and what is its scope? I take it that there must be some such exception, or else the video couldn't even be handed from the police to the prosecutor in federal enclaves, such as D.C., but the question is whether the exception extends to distribution to the media and to legislators.

(2) Should the First Amendment be read as mandating an exception for videos and photographs that are evidence in a criminal trial, and seeing which may be helpful to understanding whether justice was done in the criminal process (which is to say whether the sentence was substantively sound, not just whether the procedures were followed) -- and, again, what should the scope of the exception be?

(3) Is there some state sovereign power limit on federal law, where the distribution or possession of the material is part of the state government's law enforcement process (this would apply to, for instance, e-mailing or mailing material within the prosecutor's or police department's office) or as part of the state government's compliance with its own public records laws?

I don't know what the answers to these questions are, but the issue struck me as worth flagging.

By the way, "Nahmias said his office issued the statement to end further distribution of the videotape and advised those who possessed it to destroy or return it." That is certainly very good advice for anyone who has the tape in his hands, and who is rationally risk-averse.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Law Enforcement Possession and Distribution of Contraband:
  2. Releasing Copies of Evidence = Violation of Federal Child Porn Laws?
34 Comments
Law Enforcement Possession and Distribution of Contraband: In response to Eugene's post below, about law enforcement possession and distribution of contraband, this post from my now-abandoned solo blog might be helpful. (Unfortunately the comments there are down, but you can get the gist of them — and particularly Marty Lederman's answer — from the update.)

  Here's the key language from Nardone v. United States: according to Nardone, there is an "implied exclusion" for "public officers," "where a reading which would include such officers would work obvious absurdity as, for example, the application of a speed law to a policeman pursuing a criminal or the driver of a fire engine responding to an alarm." It's not really clear to me how this would apply to the McDade case, and I don't know if there are any later cases on how this applies (I haven't found any, but I didn't look very hard.)

  UDPATE: Corey Rayburn Yung has additional thoughts at the Sex Crimes blog.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Law Enforcement Possession and Distribution of Contraband:
  2. Releasing Copies of Evidence = Violation of Federal Child Porn Laws?
7 Comments