Ambrosio E. Rodriguez

LOS ANGELES CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY
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California Deputy Attorney General Arrested and Charged With Possession of Child Porn

In California, you can face severe consequences if you are convicted for possessing or distributing child pornography. Last month, we learned that when the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children task force receives information that child pornography may have been uploaded to online pornography websites it does not sit idly by. Acting on this information, investigators learned that at least 11 pornographic images that seemed to depict children were uploaded to the internet by a social media platform user. Account details linked deputy attorney general Raymond Joseph Liddy, of Coronado, to the photographs. Liddy was subsequently arrested and charged with possession of child pornography.

Details from the investigation, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, indicate that Liddy admitted to using the account, user names, and associated email address to “share sexual fantasies” and “download sexual images.” He may have also admitted to forwarding sexual images with a messengering platform and/or email address before deleting them. Liddy explained that “most of the images were of adults” but conceded that “it is possible some [of the photos] may have been of children.” A search of Liddy’s home uncovered the fact that he was, in fact, in possession of photographs of minors engaged in sexual conduct.

Liddy, who is the son of the infamous Gordon Liddy, pleaded not guilty to the charges. The state of California does not take the sexualization or exploitation of children lightly. Liddy and his criminal defense attorneys will likely face a significant challenge from the California Attorney General’s office as they fight to mitigate the situation. Moving forward, how may Liddy’s team of criminal defense attorneys approach his defense?

In California, the elements required to be convicted for possessing child pornography are provided in California Penal Code Section 311. Penal Code Sections 311.1 and 311.2 make it a crime to knowingly distribute or possess images of a child under the age of 18 engaged in or simulating obscene sexual conduct with the intent to distribute or exchange that photo with another. Penal Code Section 311.11 makes it a crime to knowingly distribute or possess images of a child under the age of 18 engaged in or simulating sexual conduct. It is helpful to look at some of these elements more closely to understand where Liddy may have viable arguments for his defense.

Did Liddy knowingly possess child porn? The prosecution will have to prove that Liddy knew (1) of the presence of the child porn and (2) the individuals depicted in the materials were under 18. In pre-arrest conversations with investigators, Liddy reportedly admitted to having possession of pornographic material but explained that his intent was to download images that depicted adults. Liddy’s criminal defense attorneys may try to argue that while images reportedly depicting minors engaging in sexual conduct may have been found in his possession, Liddy did not know that he had possession of such images. Liddy’s criminal defense attorney may also try to argue that Liddy did not know that the individuals depicted in the sexually explicit photographs were, in fact, minors. If the individuals in the photos could reasonably be mistaken for adults, it could be possible to argue that Liddy lacked the knowledge that he possessed child pornography.

Did Liddy intend to knowingly distribute or possess these images to others? The electronic service providers that provided information about the illicit uploads indicated that messenger apps were used transfer the images online. If the prosecution can prove that Liddy knowingly possessed the child porn they may be able to secure a more substantial punishment. Using a messenger application to exchange the pornographic images at issue in this case could be sufficient to satisfy the elements of California Penal Code Section 311.1 and 311.2. The penalties associated with these Sections of the Penal Code are more substantial than those associated with the Section 311.11, which simply makes it a misdemeanor offense to possess the materials, absent any intent to share them. Liddy’s attorneys may try to argue that Liddy did not intend to share the materials with anyone. If they can prove that he inadvertently or mistakenly used the messenger apps to transfer the images at issue in this case, they may be able to reduce the penalties he may face.

Did Liddy knowingly possess materials that depicted children under the age of 18 engaging in or simulating sexual conduct? One of the images found on Liddy’s computer reportedly depicted a “nude girl blindfolded with her hands bound together.” Would this depiction qualify as “sexual conduct” for the purposes of the charges against Liddy? California Penal Code Section 311.4 provides the definition of sexual conduct, which includes sexual intercourse, masturbation, penetration with an object, and the “exhibition of the genitals or pubic or rectal area for the purpose of sexual stimulation of the viewer.” Liddy’s attorneys may try to argue that the image described above does not rise to the level of an exhibition of a child’s naked body for sexual stimulation. The other photographs found on Liddy’s computer have not been described to the public and it is difficult to determine his potential culpability on this issue lacking additional content.

The penalties Liddy may face, if convicted, will depend on the prosecution’s ability to satisfy their burden of proof. They must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Liddy, at the very minimum, knowingly possessed or controlled child pornography. If they can prove that Liddy not only knowingly possessed the materials, but that he also knowingly exchanged the materials with others via messengering platforms or email, he may face significantly greater penalties. In California, possessing child pornography is punishable by up to 6 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. If Liddy is convicted on charges of possession of child porn he may also be required to register as a sex offender with the State of California.

Liddy’s criminal defense attorneys will undoubtedly comb through the evidence, relevant information, case law, and legal precedent to design a strategy for defense. It will be their responsibility to undermine the prosecution’s case and provide doubt as to Liddy’s guilt. Attacking each element of the crime can be an effective tool in defending against allegations of possessing child porn.

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