Computer Images & Proof of Ownership | Oklahoma Computer Crimes
In our current internet era, questions can arise when a computer crime is committed and the suspect is not caught “in the act” while he or she is behind the computer. Questions can arise, such as:
- Who has access to the computer?
- Was the network secure?
- Are several image files considered singly or as one charge?
A recent Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals case sought to challenge a conviction based in part on issues surrounding the questions above [ Case involving Oklahoma Computer Crimes ]. On June 1, 2016, Paul Hamilton (Hamilton) was convicted of (Count One) Distribution of Child Pornography and (Count 2) Aggravated Possession of Child Pornography. He received two consecutive sentences: Count One, ten years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine; Count Two, twenty-five years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
Hamilton raised several propositions on appeal: (1) the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he distributed child pornography; (2) the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knowingly possessed child pornography; (3) the district court’s interpretation of the statutory language with respect to the offense charged in Count Two of the information and the facts underlying his alleged offense was erroneous; and (4) the sentence was excessive and should be modified.
The Court agreed with the District Court after considering Hamilton’s propositions and after reviewing the record. The charges were based on the Tulsa Police Department’s investigation which by using a popular online file-sharing program, sought and received images of child pornography from Hamilton’s IP address. Those materials justified the basis for a search warrant into Hamilton’s home computer, where over 100 images of child pornography were discovered.
In Propositions I and II, Hamilton contended to several theories as why his convictions should be vacated for lack of sufficient evidence. Hamilton argued that “in any case involving possession of contraband, the fact-finder must consider all the surrounding circumstances to decide whether the defendant’s knowledge of the presence and nature of the prohibited material can reasonably be inferred, and whether anyone else might reasonably have had access to the place where the material was found;” “[p]roof of knowledge and control is often circumstantial in nature.” However, reasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence carry the same probative force as direct evidence.. Similarly, with regard to the distribution of contraband, including child pornography, the defendant’s knowledge of the material, and a willful intent to share it with others, are essential components of the charge.
The Court noted the testimony from two detectives with experience in Oklahoma computer crimes, and child pornography investigations, in particular. They both testified about the files from Hamilton’s IP address and the subsequent discovery of related files on his computer. They told the jury how file-sharing programs work, and how files are stored on a computer. Each detective used his personal smartphone to see whether Hamilton’s Internet connection was password-protected, and it was. Given the distribution of obscene material originating from Hamilton’s IP address coupled with discovering the same type of material on Hamilton’s computer, the suspicious log of Internet search queries on that computer, and Hamilton’s statements to police, a rational juror could conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Hamilton knowingly possessed the obscene material and willfully made it available online. Thus, the Court denied Propositions I and II.
For Proposition III, Hamilton claimed that multiple obscene images on a single computer hard drive should be considered a single item of contraband, and that Count Two (Aggravated Possession of Child Pornography) should have been reduced to simple possession of child pornography.
Under the Oklahoma Aggravated Possession of Child Pornography statute, it criminalizes the possession of one hundred or more “separate materials” depicting child pornography. “Material” is not limited to physical objects used to store the offensive material (such as a computer hard drive), but includes each “image,” “picture,” or “depiction” stored therein. According to the Court, the Legislature intended that each visual image of child pornography should constitute as a separate “material.”
The Court found that the sentences imposed fell within the statutory limits. Furthermore, it did not find improper evidence that would prejudice Hamilton, and thus, denied Hamilton’s propositions.
At Monroe & Keele, P.C., our Tulsa criminal defense attorneys are prepared to defend you against any criminal charge, from minor traffic violations to serious Oklahoma Computer Crimes. No criminal charge is too serious and no case too complex. We have successfully handled numerous complex, high-profile criminal trials and appeals for clients in Tulsa and throughout Oklahoma. We have handled many high profile sex crimes cases-and we are dedicated to protecting the rights and reputations of clients accused of sexual assault, Oklahoma Computer Crimes, and other sex crime charges.
 Hamilton v. State, 2016 WL 3125845 at ¶ 1, 2016 OK CR 13 (June 1, 2016).
 Id. at ¶ 2.
 Id. at ¶ 3.
 Id. at ¶ 4.
 Hamilton v. State, 2016 WL 3125845 at ¶ 4, 2016 OK CR 13 (June 1, 2016) (citing Johnson v. State, 1988 OK CR 246, ¶ 5, 764 P.2d 530, 532).
 Id. (citing Easlick v. State, 2004 OK CR 21, ¶¶ 11, 15, 90 P.3d 556, 559).
 See Inst. No. 4–133, OUJI–CR (2d) (distribution of child pornography must be “willful,” and requires that the defendant knew the nature and character of the material distributed); Hanf v. State, 1977 OK CR 41, ¶ 14, 560 P.2d 207, 210.
 Hamilton v. State, 2016 WL 3125845 at ¶ 5 (citing Davis v. State, 1996 OK CR 15, ¶¶ 34–36, 916 P.2d 251, 260–61).
 Id. at ¶6.
 Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 1040.12a(A).
 Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 1040.12a.
 Hamilton v. State, 2016 WL 3125845 at ¶ 7-8, 2016 OK CR 13 (June 1, 2016).