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United States Attorney Josh Minkler, in a statement to the press published on the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Indiana, announced that Adrian Grisanti, 46, was convicted on 20 counts of various child pornography charges and one count of destruction of evidence. U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt announced the verdict after a four-day trial in New Albany, Indiana.
According to information presented in court, Grisanti had actively used the darknet child abuse site “PlayPen” during the FBI’s temporary reign as the largest source of child abuse content on the darknet. Unlike some of the court documents filed in other PlayPen cases, the documents filed in the Grisanti case initially revealed very little. They explained that a darknet bulletin board that catered to pedophiles existed and had been running in North Carolina until March 4, 2015. The indictment explained that “law enforcement agents […] monitored electronic activity of users of “Website A.”
Later documents revealed that during the FBI’s investigation into PlayPen (“Operation Pacifier”), the FBI deployed their NIT and identified an IP address that belonged to Our Place Drug and Alcohol Services, Inc. in New Albany, Indiana. The NIT also identified the MAC address of a computer used to access PlayPen for more than nine hours when the FBI had taken control of the site. After connecting the forum profile “THISISMEE222” to the computer at Our Place, agents contacted the organization in an attempt to identify the user of the computer. The FBI learned that Grisanti had sole access to the computer in question.
On August 18, 2015, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana signed a search warrant that allowed the FBI to access Grisanti’s workplace computer. However, according to court documents, they had a limited window of opportunity; they conducted the search after business hours and only completed “a limited forensic analysis using a triage search tool.” On August 19, the FBI obtained search warrants from the same District and the Western District of Kentucky that allowed them to search his person, home, vehicle, and workplace computer.
Grisanti had somehow learned of the FBI’s attempted data recovery on August 18; the FBI found the workplace computer in the trunk of the man’s car without a hard drive. Eliminating the hard drive from the equation would likely have provided a way out of the spotlight with nothing more than a destruction of evidence charge. Grisanti, however, smashed a USB drive and tossed it into a dumpster at Our Place. The FBI located the USB drive and recovered the data Grisanti had hoped to destroy. After a thorough forensic examination, the FBI concluded that the files on the USB drive matched the files Grisanti had accessed or downloaded on the child abuse site.
The jury deliberated for four days. Grisanti’s Motion to Suppress had failed and all the evidence—minus the NIT itself—was used by the prosecution. The judge announced the verdict: guilty of 11 counts of receiving child pornography; eight counts of accessing child pornography; one count of possession; and one count of destruction of evidence.