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United States Attorney R. Trent Shores of the Northern District of Oklahoma announced that two men had entered guilty pleas for both accessing with intent to view child pornography and possession of child pornography. Although the guilty pleas were announced together, both men had been targeted by different law enforcement agencies during different operations or investigations into viewers of child abuse content on the darknet (and the clearnet in some cases).
One pedophile, Scott Frederick Arterbury, 32, got identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the infamous Operation Pacifier. Arterbury, along with a handful of other convicted and accused pedophiles caught during the same operation, briefly appeared in privacy-related media outlets during arguments surrounding the FBI’s NIT use. The court, in Arterbury’s case, denied his motion to suppress the evidence. The arguments used in the government’s responses to the defense’s motions often included information not necessarily relevant to the use of the NIT, such as the following:
“To date, at least 137 individuals in the United States are known to have been charged in connection with [Playpen]. That includes thirty-five [offenders considered] “hands on” child sexual offenders, and seventeen individuals producers of child pornography.”
Although the information revealed some of the cases brought to light because of the NIT, the information hardly helped anyone—especially the public—understand why the evidence collected through the use of the NIT was legally admissible in court. His case understandably attracted attention from privacy enthusiasts. Unfortunately for the sake of legal precedents set during the hearings, the government’s responses rarely provided rational arguments and the NIT evidence was admissible in court. It matters very little now, though, considering that Rule 41 changed the FBI’s ability to blindly hack anyone they desired to hack.
Arterbury admitted before Judge Claire V. Eagan that he had downloaded child abuse pictures and videos from the darknet. His plea agreement, however, allowed him to appeal certain rulings made by a judge during prior court appearances. His sentencing was set for August 7, but that could change if appeals start.
The second man, despite the same-day connection to the other offender, had no confirmed link to Playpen. Jeffrey Townsend, 51, admitted he had accessed child abuse videos through a live streaming website. Unlike Arterbury, Townsend got caught in a strong operation that involved live content from a live site. While sharing recorded live streams has become a popular method for pedophiles to access content, Townsend had seemingly only watched the streams. Since Townsend only “accessed” child abuse content, he will likely receive a far shorter sentence.
ICE and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation into Townsend. Judge John E. Dowdell scheduled Townsend’s sentence hearing for August 8, 2018.