Our client was a successful engineer who lived in Canton with his wife and four kids. Police were investigating the downloading of child pornography and received information that several files were downloaded at his residence using a file sharing program called eMule. Based on this information, the police executed a search warrant at our client’s house and seized every computer in the residence.
After examining all of the computers, the police obtained an arrest warrant for our client. He was later indicted in Cherokee County Superior Court for the possession of child pornography.
Upon examining the evidence, it became clear that our client was innocent. First, the only child pornography files that were found were on an old external hard drive in the basement that the entire family used. Second, these files were merely thumbs.db files. Thumbs.db files are system cache files that are created by Windows that are associated with actual image files stored somewhere else on the computer. These files are created without the user’s knowledge and the Windows Explorer default settings hide these files so the user cannot see them. Also, these files cannot be opened or accessed by the user unless the associated image files are also on the computer. The evidence showed that the associated image files were not on the hard drive or on any other computer in the house. Therefore, there was no way that our client could have been in knowing possession of these files.
With the assistance of our computer forensics expert, we were also able to show that this external hard drive was never plugged into any of our client’s computers. We learned this by examining the computers’ registry files. Moreover, we were able to show that the eMule user ID associated with the downloading of the child pornography was nowhere to be found on any of the computers. Therefore, we were able to prove that our client had no knowledge of the downloading of the child pornography and that it was likely done by someone just visiting the house—perhaps a friend of one of our client’s three teenage sons.
To additionally prove our client’s innocence, we showed the prosecutors that he passed two polygraph exams where he adamantly denied any knowledge of the child pornography files. After two and a half years of litigation, we were able to finally persuade the District Attorney’s office to dismiss the charges against our client. After the charges were dismissed, we were able to get our client’s arrest expunged from his record.