Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Use of Peer-to-Peer Network Triggers Child Porn Distribution Ehancement

US v. Layton: An informant told cops they say Layton looking at child porn on his computer. Cops went to investigate and questioned Layton, who gave a statement admitting to downloading porn, that there were a few thousand images on his computer, and that he used a peer-to-peer software called WinMX. He pleaded guilty to possession of child porn. At sentencing, he objected to enhancements based on the number of images, their type (i.e., masochistic), and that he "distributed" them via the WinMX software. Layton's arguments were based largely on factual issues that he alleged were left out of the investigators' report of the investigation. The district court rejected all Layton's arguments and sentenced him to 97 months, the bottom of the Guideline range.

Layton appealed his sentence, which the Fourth Circuit affirmed. After brushing aside Layton's fact-based claims on the number and types of images he possessed, the court moved on to the issue of whether his offense involved "distribution" of child porn via the file sharing WinMX software under USSG 2G2.2(b)(3). Noting that the other circuits have all concluded that use of peer-to-peer file sharing software constituted distribution, the Fourth Circuit agreed. The court concluded that "[w]hen knowingly using a file-sharing program that allows others to access child pornography files," the enhancement is appropriate. Finally, the court concluded that Layton's sentence was procedurally and substantively reasonable (without reference to the presumption of reasonableness, oddly).

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