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Felony Child Sexually Abusive Material (CSAM) Case Dismissed
The following case was handled by Michigan Sex Crimes Lawyer Michael Boyle:
Our client was arrested and charged with Possession of Child Sexually Abusive Material, known as CSAM, a 4-year felony, and a tier I offense for Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA). Our client was 23-year old man who had never been in trouble. Facing 15 years in prison and SORA registration, he was terrified of the possible loss of freedom and embarrassment related to these charges, particularly as it related to his family and employer. He felt he as deeply in need of both personal and legal help.
Immediately after being retained, Mr. Boyle spent considerable time with client going through his personal history and learning as much as possible about his background. This is important because we are the client’s representative and part of our job is to help the prosecutor and court understand who are client is; to look at him as a “real” person, not defined solely by the charges he was facing. Mr. Boyle also helped him navigate the initiation of professional counseling to assist him with his own history of abuse and the stress of the legal charges.
Our legal representation included conducting our own thorough investigation, independent of the police investigation, as well as sending to the prosecutor and court detailed and exhaustive discovery demands. Discovery refers to the required sharing of information between the prosecutor and the defense attorney. As defense attorneys we are able to “discover” what the prosecutor has in his/her file, such as police reports, witness investigations, forensic details, etc. For example, in these cases the discovery nearly always includes a copy of the affidavit and warrant used to create the legal basis for the search, copies of all communications and witness tips, and forensic analysis of the computers and phones.
Many of these cases, including this one, began with a tip from a social media company for an inquiry with National Center of Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). NCMEC then sent the tip to local law enforcement who then seeks a warrant for the Communications Company and ultimately track the IP Address to identify potential user(s). Each IP Address is unique, and ultimately led to a warrant against our client.
We were able to review the forensic reports and concluded that the material alleged to support the prosecutor’s conclusion that our client uploaded the illegal material lacked sufficient support. Essentially the case fell into a circumstantial case vs factual case. We also argued that the search warrant was defective in that it also lacked verifiable facts sufficient to establish the necessary probable cause. As we continued to investigate and prepare our defense it was necessary for us to adjourn the preliminary exam. When the case was set for the second probable cause conference the prosecution agreed to a dismiss the felony CSAM charge. A new “amended” charge was added, that being Misuse of Telecommunications Device, a 180-day Misdemeanor. This is not a sex crime and does not require any registration on SORA. The work was not done yet. The client agreed to plead guilty to this new charge.
Prior to Sentencing we met with the prosecutor again to present the personal case, the story, of our client and also to related and explain the extensive counseling he’d been doing. Our client had recently renewed his faith and also had a pending baptism ceremony. His life had been significantly pushed off course from the abuse he endured from a young age. This case was arguably was a low point in his life but allowed him to begin a new chapter, a rebirth, and live a proud life. Based on our discussions, in addition to the significant reduction in the charges, the prosecutor also agreed to consent to a HYTA (Holmes Youthful Trainee Act) designation. Because he was over 21 but under 24 years of age, the HYTA did require that both the prosecutor and the judge consent. HYTA was important because this would mean that there would be no adjudication of guilt. The criminal record would be sealed, and upon successful completion of probation the case will be dismissed. Summarily it means that his record will remain clean.
The Judge agreed to HYTA at sentencing and ordered 18 months of probation. The Judge told our client that he was not defined by the abuse he had suffered and being charged with this crime did not define him, but instead, he would be defined by his future. The Judge was impressed with our client, and her final words to him were “keep it up!”