What could our justice system possibly be thinking when they prosecute cases like this?
A recent Mashable post chronicles the tale of Matthew White of Sacramento, California. Matthew is 22 years old and about a year ago downloaded what was represented as a copy of College Girls Gone Wild. Let's just say it was mislabeled and I don't doubt for a moment Matthew would have not bothered downloading the file were it truthfully labelled; it contained child pornography.
So Matthew deleted it, and thought that was the end of that. About a year later the FBI shows up at his family's house, and his family lets the agents inside and allows them to examine the computer, presumably without a search warrant.
The investigators recover the "deleted" copy of the mislabeled child pornography and now Matthew faces 20 years in prison. The truly sad part of this is that according to the story, Matthew plans to plead guilty and accept a 3.5 year sentence.
Hopefully someone out there knows Matthew and can relay a copy of this post to him. The last thing you want to do is plead guilty (I've already left a comment to this effect on the original Mashable post). Were I in Matthew's situation I like my chances in front of a jury.
Of course, the best way out of this situation is simply to deny the agents entry to the premises or access to the computer without a warrant. At that point their options are either to come back with a warrant or cease pursuing the case.
I don't know what crime Matthew committed that is worth sending him to prison for 3.5 years and branding him a sex offender for life. If the FBI is looking for people to make an example out of, surely they could pick someone who actually intentionally downloaded child pornography and kept the files instead of deleting them? At the least, Matthew should get a pardon. There is no sense in ruining the life of someone that young who acted in good faith and in all likelihood, was ignorant of whatever law he may have technically violated.
Shame on you, FBI agents that worked this case. Here's hoping your time holding the badge is short-lived.