Former Virginia Governor Sentenced to Two Years in Prison in Corruption Case After Prosecutors Recommend Ten Years

April 8, 2015

6902576564_8844bbee7e_z.jpgA federal judge sentenced former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell to 24 months in prison in early January 2015, after a jury convicted him on multiple counts alleging official corruption. United States v. McDonnell, No. 3:14-cr-00012, am. judgment (E.D. Va., Jan. 13, 2015). The defendant was charged in connection with his and his wife's alleged acceptance of gifts and other items of value from a businessman while he was in office. After the jury rendered a guilty verdict on all but two counts, the federal government recommended a prison sentence of at least 10 years under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines (FSG).

Prosecutors charged the defendant and his wife in January 2014 with multiple counts, including honest-services wire fraud, obtaining property under color of official right, and false statements. They alleged that the defendants accepted approximately $177,000 in gifts and loans from a Richmond businessman in exchange for using the governor's office to help the businessman's dietary-supplement company. Prior to the indictment, the former governor had reportedly rejected a plea deal for one felony charge of making a false statement on a loan document, which would have carried a maximum of three years in prison, and no charges for his wife. The case went to trial against both defendants in July 2014 and lasted five weeks.

In early September 2014, the jury convicted the defendant of 11 charges: one count of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1349; three counts of honest-services wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1343; one count of conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right, 18 U.S.C. § 1951; and six counts of obtaining property under color of official right. It acquitted him on two counts of false statements, 18 U.S.C. § 1014. The defendant's wife was convicted on eight counts.

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SEC Sanctions Two American Businessmen for Bribery of Foreign Officials

April 1, 2015

dubai-256585_640.jpegThe Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the agency empowered to enforce federal securities laws and regulations, imposed administrative sanctions on two American businessmen for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-1. The agency accepted offers of settlement from both respondents, resulting in civil monetary penalties and a cease-and-desist order. Matter of Timms, et al, Release No. 73616, File No. 3-16281, order (PDF file) (SEC, Nov. 17, 2014).

Administrative sanctions are similar to criminal penalties, although they generally have different procedural requirements and a much lower burden of proof. In a criminal proceeding, the state must prove that a defendant is guilty of all of the statutory elements of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Administrative sanction proceedings are conducted by a government agency or administrative law judge. The agency typically must establish violations of applicable laws or regulations by a preponderance of evidence. Penalties often consist of monetary fines, license suspension, and injunctions.

During the relevant time period, the two respondents were employed by an American defense contractor in its office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. They both worked as sales executives, with responsibility for obtaining contracts to sell binoculars and security cameras to Saudi Arabia's Ministry of the Interior (MOI). As a condition for a binoculars contract, the respondents' employer was to conduct a "factory acceptance test" at a facility in Massachusetts in July 2009. The respondents arranged for MOI officials to travel to the U.S. for the test. According to the SEC, this trip included a 20-day "world tour" with stops in Casablanca, Paris, New York City, and Dubai, all at the contractor's expense. The respondents reportedly also presented five MOI officials with $1,425 watches.

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Federal Appellate Court Overturns Insider Trading Convictions

March 31, 2015

Bulle_und_Bär_Frankfurt.jpgA federal appellate court issued a ruling at the end of 2014 that could have a far-reaching impact on criminal prosecutions in the financial sector. The court overturned the convictions of two hedge fund portfolio managers for insider trading, finding that the government failed to establish several key elements at trial. United States v. Newman, et al, Nos. 13-1837-cr (L), 13-1917-cr (con), slip op. (2d Cir., Dec. 10, 2014). The federal criminal offense of insider trading, the court held, requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a tippee (1) knowingly received confidential information from an insider and (2) knew that the insider received a personal benefit in exchange for the disclosure. The court found that prosecutors failed to prove either element with regard to the defendants.

The term "insider trading" generally refers to trading securities, such as corporate stocks and bonds, based on information that is not available to the general public. It does not always describe illegal activity, since corporate officers and other insiders may legally trade their own securities, provided they report those trades to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Illegal insider trading, according to the SEC's definition, involves the use of information obtained in violation of an insider's fiduciary duty to keep that information confidential. The burden of proof on the government is quite high in these cases.

In Newman, prosecutors alleged that insiders at the technology companies Dell and NVIDIA disclosed confidential information to a group of financial analysts in 2008, before either company released the information in its periodic earnings announcements. The analysts passed the information on to their portfolio managers, including the two defendants, who executed trades in the companies' stock that yielded profits of about $4 million and $68 million for the defendants' funds.

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Owner of Vocational College Chain Indicted, Sued for Alleged Fraud

March 30, 2015

FAFSA_screenshot_using_camera.jpgFederal prosecutors indicted the owner of a now-closed chain of colleges for conspiracy to defraud the federal government and theft of government property. United States v. Amor, et al ("Amor I"), No. 1:14-cr-20750, indictment (S.D. Fla., Sep. 30, 2014). The government alleges that the defendants operated the schools primarily as a means of defrauding federal student aid programs, rather than educating students and preparing them for careers. The principal owner also faces a civil lawsuit under the False Claims Act (FCA), originally filed by a former admissions employee and now joined by the government and the state of Florida. United States ex rel Peña v. Amor, et al ("Amor II"), No. 1:12-cv-21431, complaint in intervention (S.D. Fla., Dec. 2, 2014).

The defendants operated FastTrain College, a for-profit college with seven campuses in the state of Florida. According to the indictment, it "awarded career diplomas and industry certifications" in various medical and computer fields. Amor I at 1. The school received approval from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to receive loans from the Federal Direct Loan Program and grants from the Federal Pell Grant Program. Both programs are administered by the DOE's Office of Federal Student Aid. To receive either type of financial aid, students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The federal government alleges that the defendants recruited students who did not have high school diplomas or GEDs, and therefore did not meet the qualifications for federal student aid, to enroll in the school. Efforts to attract students allegedly included hiring exotic dancers as recruiters. In some cases, the government claims, the defendants falsely represented that prospective students could "obtain a high school diploma for a fee." Id. at 8. They allegedly caused about 1,300 students to submit FAFSAs falsely stating that they had graduated high school. This allegedly resulted in the receipt of more than $6.5 million in Direct Loans and Pell Grants.

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Federal Prosecutors Charge Two Individuals Under 18th Century Statute in Connection with Attempted Coup in African Nation

March 21, 2015

505px-Gambia-map-political.jpgTwo United States citizens were charged by federal prosecutors in connection with an attempted coup in The Gambia, a small nation in West Africa. According to the criminal complaint, one defendant directly participated in the attempt to overthrow The Gambia's government, while the other was an alleged leader and financier of the plot. United States v. Njie, et al, No. 0:15-mj-00001-TNL-1, complaint (D. Minn., Jan. 5, 2015). Both defendants were charged with conspiracy to violate the Neutrality Act, a law originally passed in 1794 that prohibits Americans from preparing or financing an attack on a country with which the United States is at peace. 18 U.S.C. § 960. At least one of the defendants was also charged with conspiracy to violate arms export laws.

The Gambia is a small West African country located on the Atlantic coast. Its territory consists almost entirely of land on either side of its namesake, the Gambia River. Aside from its coastline, the country is bordered on all sides by Senegal. It gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1965, and has been ruled by President Yahya Jammeh since 1994, when he took power in a military coup. The Gambia and the United States have friendly relations, although the U.S. Department of State has expressed concerns over free and fair elections and alleged human rights abuses. Human rights activists have described The Gambia as one of the most authoritarian nations in Africa.

On December 30, 2014, gunfire reportedly broke out near the Gambian capital city, Banjul. President Jammeh was out of the country at the time. The U.S. and others have claimed that this was an attempted coup aimed at overthrowing Jammeh, with ten to twelve people entering the country expecting others to join them in a revolt. When this failed to happen, one of the defendants, Papa Faal, reportedly fled to Senegal and turned himself in to authorities at the U.S. embassy. He told the FBI that the other defendant, Cherno Njie, financed their activities and intended to be installed as the new president after the coup. Authorities arrested Njie at the airport upon his arrival in the U.S.

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Former Coal Company CEO Indicted for Conspiracy, Other Charges in Connection with 2010 Mine Disaster

March 5, 2015

Coal_cars_NARA_-_540955.jpgFederal prosecutors indicted the former CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors of a coal company in connection with a 2010 coal mine explosion. United States v. Blankenship, No. 5:14-cr-00244, indictment (S.D.W.V., Nov. 13, 2014). The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) fined Massey Energy Co. nearly $11 million in 2011 for hundreds of safety violations at the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine in Montcoal, West Virginia. The defendant in the present case was Massey's CEO and Chairman at the time of the explosion. Prosecutors allege that he knew or should have known about numerous violations and "had the ability to prevent most of" them, but instead "fostered and participated in an understanding that perpetuated UBB's practice of routine safety violations." Id. at 1.

At about 3:27 p.m. on April 5, 2010, an explosion occurred in the UBB mine, about 1,000 feet underground. Twenty-five miners were apparently killed in the explosion or shortly afterwards, and another four bodies were recovered later. It was described as the worst mine disaster in the United States in 40 years. Attention quickly turned to Massey and its subsidiary, Performance Coal Co., which operated the UBB mine. In the five years preceding the explosion, the MSHA had reportedly issued 1,342 citations to the mine for safety violations and proposed $1.89 million in fines.

Massey's competitor Alpha Natural Resources acquired the company in June 2011 and took control of Massey's assets, including the UBB mine. In December 2011, the MSHA announced that it had issued 369 citations to Massey, through Alpha, and imposed a $10.8 million fine in connection with the UBB mine explosion. The Department of Justice announced on the same day that it had reached a $209 million settlement with Alpha in its criminal investigation of Massey.

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Owner of Company that Allegedly Trains Customers to Pass Polygraph Tests Charged with Fraud, Witness Tampering

February 25, 2015

Polygram1.pngThe owner of a company that offers to teach customers how to pass a polygraph test, more commonly known as a "lie detector" test, has been indicted by federal prosecutors on five counts of fraud and witness tampering. United States v. Williams, No. 5:14-cr-00318, indictment (W.D. Ok., Nov. 13, 2014). Prosecutors allege that the defendant marketed his services to people who were scheduled to appear for polygraph tests with law enforcement and intelligence agencies. They further claim that he trained people "to lie and conceal crimes" in polygraph tests used during the employment screening process and during internal investigations.

Polygraph examinations use a device that measures and records a subject's pulse, blood pressure, respiration, and other indices as the subject answers a series of questions. The idea is that the subject will display different physiological responses when lying. The position of the scientific community, generally speaking, is that polygraph tests are not a reliable means of determining whether or not someone is telling the truth. Polygraph test results are nevertheless admissible in criminal trials in some U.S. jurisdictions under certain circumstances, and they are used by the federal government for employment screenings.

The test relies on the assumption that deception produces a unique set or pattern of physiological responses, but as the American Psychological Association notes, no evidence exists to support this assumption. Numerous other factors, including the placebo effect, could affect the results and produce false "positives." In Williams, the defendant is a former Oklahoma City police officer who has been an outspoken critic of polygraph tests for years. He owns and operates, where, he claims, he does not offer training on how to "beat" the test, but rather how to avoid results that lead to false accusations of lying.

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Commodities Trader Charged in First Federal Case to Allege Use of High-Frequency Trading to Manipulate Market

February 19, 2015

Optical_fiber_cable.jpgIn the realm of financial criminal investigation, the term "spoofing" refers to the use of computer algorithms to manipulate markets by placing large orders in order to alter the price of a security, then quickly canceling the order. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act amended the Commodity Exchange Act, 7 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., to add anti-spoofing provisions. Federal prosecutors have charged a commodities trader with multiple counts of commodity fraud and spoofing, in what is reportedly the first case brought under the amended law. United States v. Coscia, No. 1:14-cr-00551, indictment (E.D. Ill., Oct. 1, 2014). The case raises interesting questions about how computer programs could influence criminal cases.

The defendant is involved in high-frequency trading (HFT), a type of securities trading that is almost completely automated and that operates at speeds typically measured in thousandths of a second (milliseconds). Traders rely on computers with fast processing equipment and high-speed network connections. The most successful high-frequency traders are often the ones with the fastest equipment and the clearest digital connection to the markets. HFT has been the subject of a great deal of criticism because it can cause the information available to ordinary investors to become obsolete before it even reaches their computers.

According to the federal indictment, the defendant created two computer programs that he used to trade in commodities markets in Chicago and London. These programs allegedly used algorithms to place large numbers of orders for futures contracts and then canceled them in a matter of milliseconds. Other traders would see a high volume of orders, either bids to buy futures contracts or offers to sell them, creating "a false impression regarding the number of contracts available in the market." Coscia, indictment at 3. This would then "move[] the market in a direction favorable to" the defendant. Id. He allegedly made nearly $1.6 million from this strategy from August through October 2011. In 2013, the defendant and his company were fined $2.8 million by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and about $900,000 by the Financial Conduct Authority in the United Kingdom.

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Understanding the Potential Impact of Civilian Criminal Cases on Military Service Members in Texas

February 11, 2015

Fort_Bliss_1948_Issue-3c.jpgThe United States military is a major part of Texas' economic and political landscape. El Paso's Fort Bliss is one of the largest bases in the country, and the greater west Texas region boasts Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, and Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo. While military service members often live and work among civilians in Texas, different sets of laws apply to them in many situations. A criminal case in a civilian court may affect a military service member's career in ways that are difficult to predict without knowing a bit about military law.

Federal law prohibits anyone with a felony conviction from enlisting in the armed forces. 10 U.S.C. § 504(a), 50 U.S.C. App. § 456(m). Once a person joins one of the uniformed services, they come under the jurisdiction of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), 10 U.S.C. § 801 et seq. The UCMJ outlines procedures for trials, known as courts-martial, and other types of disciplinary action. It identifies offenses that are not found in civilian life, such as desertion, absence without leave, and disobeying orders, and it also includes criminal offenses ranging from theft and fraud to assault and murder.

A court-martial is similar to a trial in civilian court, with key differences based on the structure of military life. In some ways, defendants in courts-martial have far more rights and protections than in civilian trials. Civilian criminal cases may originate with a closed grand jury proceeding, or merely the filing of an information or indictment. A court-martial must be preceded by an investigation, known as an Article 32 hearing, at which the accused may have counsel, cross-examine witnesses, and present evidence. 10 U.S.C. § 832.

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"Fair Sentencing" Laws Eliminate Mandatory Minimum Sentences, Sentencing Disparities for Certain Drug Offenses

January 26, 2015

CocaineHydrochloridePowder.jpgLegislation signed into law last fall in California eliminates sentencing disparities for drug offenses involving powder and crack cocaine, a relic of 1980s federal anti-drug policy that is being slowly rolled back. In 1986, Congress imposed considerably harsher penalties for drug offenses involving cocaine base, commonly known as crack cocaine, than for offenses involving cocaine hydrochloride, or powder cocaine. Some states also passed laws imposing disparate sentences. Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010, which reduced but did not eliminate the sentencing disparity between the two drugs. Subsequent legislation has made additional improvements to the sentencing system. California's new law eliminates the disparity entirely.

The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 established a "100 to 1" sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine. Possession of five grams, or roughly one-fifth of an ounce, of crack cocaine carried a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years without parole. The same sentence applied to possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine, equal to slightly over one pound. The same ratio applied to larger amounts of both substances. Whatever Congress' intent in passing this law, it resulted in a substantial racial disparities in enforcement, along with numerous other injustices.

In 2010, Congress addressed the issue by passing the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the sentencing disparity from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1. The threshold amount of powder cocaine required for a federal felony possession charge remained 500 grams, while the amount of crack cocaine was increased from five to 28 grams. This may still seem like a dramatic difference, but it is a vast improvement over the 1986 law. The bill also eliminated the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for first-time offenses involving possession of small amounts of crack cocaine. A bill that would further reduce the sentencing disparity, the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2014, did not pass in the last Congressional session.

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Prosecution of Woman Accused of Running Prostitution Ring Focuses on Racketeering Charges

January 23, 2015

finance-462986_640.pngA New Jersey woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison in September 2014, after pleading guilty to racketeering charges related to accusations of operating a "prostitution ring." While media coverage of the case focused on the more prurient aspects of the investigation, the actual criminal charges focused on her role as the alleged head of a criminal enterprise. "Racketeering" refers to various forms of conduct that may appear legitimate, but are actually intended to benefit an organization engaged in illegal activity. Statutes like the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq., allow prosecutors to focus more on the organized nature of an alleged criminal offense, or the intended beneficiary, than on the conduct itself.

According to news coverage, the woman, Deanna Ruiz, operated an internet-based prostitution service, which paired clients with sex workers in motels in several central New Jersey towns. She reportedly received "millions of dollars" in revenue from this operation over a 15-year period, but media reports also indicate that she spent more than $1 million on hotel and motel rooms. Ruiz was accused of using multiple business entities as money-laundering fronts. She was arrested in August 2012 after a lengthy law enforcement investigation. She was released on bail but was taken into custody again in July 2013 and formally charged. Six other adults and one juvenile were reportedly also arrested in connection with the investigation.

Prosecutors charged Ruiz with at least three alleged offenses: money laundering, promoting organized street crime, and promoting prostitution. Money laundering involves channeling money obtained from illegal activity through an intermediary, such as a front company, to conceal its origins. See Tex. Pen. Code § 34.01 et seq. The "street crime" charge is similar to charges that could be brought under Texas' organized crime statute, Tex. Pen. Code § 71.01 et seq.

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Police Violated Resident's Fourth Amendment Rights by Lying About 911 Calls to Gain Entry to Homes, Court Rules

January 15, 2015

Point_d_interrogation.jpgA judge ruled last summer that police violated a woman's Fourth Amendment rights by using false information to obtain consent to search her home. Police are allowed to make misleading or even false statements during investigations, although the question of how far they may go has been the subject of much courtroom dispute. Most court decisions involve police interrogations in which an officer is trying to get a suspect to confess. As a general rule, police are permitted to mislead a suspect regarding specific facts about the investigation, but not to fabricate material evidence, like documents or photographs, nor to misrepresent the law.

According to local news, several police officers in Durham, North Carolina obtained consent to enter people's homes by falsely stating that they had received 911 calls regarding those properties. An officer allegedly found a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia inside one woman's house after she allowed him to enter. He admitted to the ruse in court, but he testified that it was permitted by department policy. The police chief denied this and later formally banned the practice. The court suppressed the evidence, ruling that consent to the search was obtained under false pretenses.

The U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision on false statements by police is Frazier v. Cupp, 394 U.S. 731 (1969). The defendant confessed after the interrogating officer told him, falsely, that his suspected accomplice had spoken to police and implicated him. The court held that the false statements were relevant to the question of the confession's admissibility, but that the "totality of the circumstances" did not indicate a violation of the defendant's rights. Id. at 739. Later cases explored what circumstances might render a confession inadmissible.

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Court Rules that State May Compel Fingerprint, but Not Passcode, Access to Cell Phone

January 8, 2015

encryption2.pngA Virginia judge issued an important ruling regarding how the Fourth and Fifth Amendments intersect with the latest cell phone technology in Virginia v. Baust, No. CR14-1439, order (Va. Cir. Ct., Va. Beach, Oct. 28, 2014). Police and prosecutors often seek access to a defendant's cell phone during an investigation. While the Supreme Court ruled last year in Riley v. California, 573 U.S. ___ (2014), that police must obtain a warrant to search the digital contents of a suspect's cell phone, the question of whether a person may be compelled to unlock security encryption to give law enforcement access to his or her phone remains largely unresolved.

Smartphones, such as Apple's iPhone, have become an indispensable tool for many people. Besides being a phone, people use them for text messaging, email, web browsing, personal finance, photographs and videos, games, and countless other functions. Our smartphones tend to accumulate a substantial amount of personal information, which makes them very attractive to law enforcement investigations.

The Supreme Court established the requirement for a warrant in Riley, but what happens if police have legal authority to access a smartphone, but they are unable to do so because of security encryption? Most phones allow users to set a passcode, usually a four-digit number, to unlock the phone. Some newer phones, such as the latest iPhone models, allow users to unlock the phone with their fingerprints. This question came before a Circuit Court judge in Virginia Beach, Virginia in Baust, when prosecutors moved to compel the defendant to provide the passcode to his phone, or use his fingerprint to allow access. The defendant argued that this would violate his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

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Police Officer Helps Relative Obtain Illegal Drugs, then Uses that Information to Obtain a Search Warrant

December 17, 2014

Plantacja.jpgThe Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects people against "unreasonable searches and seizures" by requiring police to obtain a warrant before conducting a search of a person or his or her property. Obtaining a warrant requires convincing a judge that probable cause exists to believe a search will yield evidence relevant to a criminal investigation. A recent case before Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals considered whether a police officer violated the Fourth Amendment by withholding information about his own involvement in an illegal act in his application for a search warrant. While acknowledging that the officer behaved terribly, the court found that his improper motivations did not invalidate the application for a search warrant. The officer withheld information in the application, the court held, but probable cause actually did exist. Scherr v. City of Chicago, 757 F.3d 593 (7th Cir. 2014).

The case was a civil lawsuit for civil rights violations by public officials. The plaintiff's seven-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer in 2011. The plaintiff learned that cannabis oil, which is derived from marijuana plants, might have therapeutic benefits for her daughter. She began growing her own marijuana plants in 2012, and she was assisted by her father-in-law, an officer with the Chicago Police Department. He provided her with "grow lights" and periodically checked on the plants.

The plaintiff's daughter died in July 2012. Conflicts quickly developed between the plaintiff and her father-in-law related to details of the obituary and funeral. Several days after the funeral, the father-in-law prepared an affidavit for a search warrant of the plaintiff's house. All of the evidence in support of the warrant came from his personal observation of fifty marijuana plants in the plaintiff's basement, but he did not disclose his own involvement in the growing operation. A judge granted a warrant, and at least a dozen DEA agents raided the plaintiff's home. Since the plaintiff had no use for the plants after her daughter died, she had thrown them all away, and the agents found nothing. She was not arrested, and no charges were ever brought against her.

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Theft and Misuse of Computer Data Are Becoming Major Areas of Cybercrime Prosecutions

December 17, 2014

6937238953_60c68ce056_o.jpgVarious cybercrimes are gaining in prominence as states pass new laws, and prosecutors target certain types of conduct. New terms like "cyberharassment" and "cyberstalking" are becoming common, and some states have passed laws against posting explicit photos of another person online without his or her permission, commonly known as "revenge porn." Criticisms of the laws include concerns that they could apply beyond the egregious incidents that led to their passage. Several recent incidents demonstrate how enforcement of these laws might work.

Prosecutors in Seattle, Washington charged a man this summer in connection with allegedly posting explicit photos of a woman to a "revenge porn" website and then threatening to send the photos to the woman's family and friends. According to local news coverage, the woman had hired the man to transfer data from one computer hard drive to another about three years ago. Among the data on the computer were nude photos of herself. The man allegedly kept copies of the photos and began threatening her last year. The threats allegedly escalated from further distribution of the pictures to sexual assault. He was charged with one count of computer trespass in the first degree, Wa. Rev. Code § 9A.52.110, and four counts of cyberstalking, id. at § 9.61.260. According to court records, he pled guilty to all counts in early December 2014.

Although the Washington case involved a "revenge porn" website, the charges only dealt with the acts of obtaining photos from the woman's hard drive and making online threats. California has made it illegal to post explicit photos of a person online without his or her permission. Cal. Penal Code § 647(j)(4). The statute originally only applied to pictures or videos taken by someone else, but an amendment to the law signed by the governor in September 2014 expands it to include "selfies." A Los Angeles man became the first person to be convicted under the new statute, and was sentenced to one year in jail on December 1, 2014. Texas has no comparable "revenge porn" law, although a few states have followed in California's footsteps. See N.J. Rev. Stat. § 2C:14-9(c).

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