Friday, April 10, 2009

Pastor porn case

Pastor Porn Case Raises Difficult Legal QuestionsBy Tasha KatesDaily ProgressMarch 30, 2009http://www.dailyprogress.com/cdp/news/local/crime/article/ pastor_porn_case_raises_difficult_legal_questions/37954/
Nearly three years after being accused of possessing child pornography, a former pastor is scheduled to go to trial Tuesday in Albemarle County Circuit Court.For most of that time, lawyers have been dealing with questions about the age of the females in the images that authorities said they found on Gregory M. Briehl's computer in July 2006. An expert was brought in to try to identify their ages by sight, and the prosecution has tried to find out more information about the females in the images from an Australian Web site without success.On March 17, Circuit Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. denied a motion to dismiss the charges filed by Briehl's attorney, Rhonda Quag-liana. The judge ruled that the prosecution "pursued reasonable efforts" to find the exculpatory evidence.Quagliana said she believes there is paperwork out there to prove that the models in the pictures are 18 or older."We have felt strongly from the beginning that there is material out there that would exonerate Mr. Briehl, and that we have throughout these proceedings insisted and encouraged and done everything we can to try to follow any leads and any information that might take us to that material," Quagliana said. "There is a legitimate issue of the age of the people depicted in these Web sites."During a motions hearing earlier this month, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jon R. Zug said that the inconclusive age of the models in the pictures has complicated the issue."The reason we're having a trial is because we don't know who these people are," Zug said in court.Zug could not be reached for comment on this story. Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford declined to comment on the specifics of this case, but did say that about half of the child pornography cases that her office handles involve people who are not prepubescent. However, Lunsford said sometimes the girls depicted look older than their years despite being minors.DownloadedIn May 2006, authorities raided Briehl's Earlysville home and his Charlottesville-based First Stone Counseling Center for video equipment after getting a tip that he was filming guests at his home without their knowledge. Briehl was convicted of unlawful filming in September 2006 and sentenced to 60 days in jail.During that search, authorities said they found about 100 pornographic images that appeared to be of underage females. County police Detective Chuck Marshall has said Briehl told authorities that he liked to view images of girls who were between 14 and 17 years old.Briehl did not respond to an interview request for this story.The 15 indictments that Briehl is facing mostly involve images that came from an Australian Web site. A printed copy of the front page of that site filed in the court's records said it features models who are 18 and older. Users can submit their own images for the site to get a free membership, but the site said that it would be illegal to submit images of models under 18 years old.Under Title 18, section 2257 of the U.S. Code, pornography Web sites are required to maintain records on each performer featured on their site. That information must include the performer's age and legal and stage names.In his efforts to access those records, Zug contacted the Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Center. According to court records, a department employee told Zug that the Web site's registrant was listed as Rick Chant, who had a post office box in Herndon. In early September, an Albemarle circuit judge entered an order to compel the U.S. Post Office to reveal Chant's street address. Zug hand-delivered a subpeona to the Herndon location.The address came back as a regional office of Booz Allen Hamilton, a national consulting firm. A company employee confirmed last week that the office building and address were not shared with any other companies."Once that happened, I was at a dead end," Zug said in court during the March 9 hearing.During that hearing, Zug said in court that he requested assistance from the U.S. Attorney's Office and the state's Attorney General's Office. However, he doesn't have the power to make those agencies investigate, nor can he issue a subpeona outside of the state."I don't know what to do, judge," Zug said in court earlier this month. "I have done what is in my power to do, and what I know how to do."Forbidden imagesChild pornography has become more widespread because of the Internet. David Greenfield, a psychologist and director of the Center for Internet Behavior in Connecticut, said the Web has created a new marketplace with a large inventory and easy access.According to the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics, the main sex exploitation offense prosecuted in federal courts in 1994 was sex abuse, which made up 73 percent of cases. By 2006, it had shifted to child pornography, which made up 69 percent of sex exploitation cases.Greenfield said child pornography usually is traded on the Internet between individuals. The inventory that is available may include some images that are decades old, but the pictures are difficult to date because there isn't any clothing to indicate when the picture when taken.The psychologist said there is a correlation between arousal from images of child pornography and a pedophiliac arousal pattern, although being aroused by the images doesn't necessarily mean the viewer is a pedophile. The Internet hasn't created new pedophiles, Greenfield said, but it can change a person's judgment and behavior when it comes to sexual behavior.Greenfield said that child pornography is very powerful, not unlike drugs."This information and these images are extremely powerful and psychoactive," he said. "They can be arousing even if you don't want them to be, and they can also be quite disturbing, especially if you have a history of being sexually abused."Greenfield said child pornography laws are about who looked at the images and not someone's status as a pedophile. The only way to tell if someone is a pedophile is through an evaluation, he said, which doesn't always happen during a child pornography case.In Virginia, a person convicted of possession of child pornography can face one to five years in prison. Greenfield said he's usually seen defendants get three to five years in prison per conviction."The question is, is it the most appropriate sentence for a person who has no prior history who downloaded some images and doesn't have a history of pedophilia or predatory behavior," Greenfield said. "Should you lock them up for five years? I don't know, I think it's extreme. On the other hand, the courts have no way of weeding out who is a predator and who is not."

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