A 'Hard Lesson' in Prosecutorial Idiocy

Classically Liberal tells the Kafkaesque tale of Matthew Bandy, an Arizona teenager who faced a possible sentence of 90 years in prison because of nine images on his computer that the government identified as child pornography. Police, who (naturally) seized the computer during a ridiculously excessive military-style raid, apparently obtained a warrant based on Bandy's alleged visit to a website that included child porn. But that site was not the source of the images on his computer, and Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas could not prove the pictures had been deliberately downloaded (as opposed to planted by malicious software), let alone that Bandy had downloaded them. After putting the kid through hell for two years, Thomas tried to save face by charging him with a trumped-up felony that consisted of showing another boy a copy of Playboy. Bandy pleaded guilty to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison. To add insult to injury, Thomas tried to force Bandy, who had admitted to nothing but looking at legal pornography, to register as a sex offender.

The case, which was recently covered by ABC's 20/20, illustrates several dangerous trends, including laws that treat the possession of pictures more harshly than rape; militarization of the police, who routinely use SWAT teams to serve search warrants on nonviolent offenders (as documented in a recent Cato report by our own Radley Balko); arrests (and convictions) based on nothing more than data on a hard drive that may or may not have been placed there by the computer's owner; sex offender registries that throw harmless people together with child molesters; and excessive prosecutorial power based on vague laws and harsh mandatory sentences. Thomas, who comes across as dishonest and not terribly bright, is unrepentant, saying he hopes Bandy learned a "hard lesson" about the dangers of looking at dirty pictures. He implies that anyone who inadvertently comes across Internet porn featuring models 17 or younger deserves whatever he gets, presumably including a life sentence.

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  • tomWright||

    Andrew Thomas sounds like the kind of guy the Second Amendment was intended for.

  • ||

    The city council of Upper Arlington (a suburb of Columbus, Ohio) is considering legislation to ban people on the sex offender registry from living or working within the city limits. Given the mentality exhibited above, it will probably pass.

  • ||

    After putting the kid through hell for two years, Thomas tried to save face by charging him with a trumped-up felony that consisted of showing another boy a copy of Playboy. Bandy pleaded guilty to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison.

    Thank god that Matthew didn't take another child to an art museum. There are paintings and even sculptures of "nekkid women" there.

    What is the hangup about the human body? I was raised in a Roman Catholic household and still don't get it. Any insights into this aberrant mindset would be greatly appreciated.

  • ||

    I have been to several CLE courses on prosecuting computer and child sex abuse cases, I am telling you Jacob there is no dealing with some of these folks. Not that all of them are like this, but there is a substantial minority who think that anyone who has any pictures they deem as child porn is as bad as a child rapist and any lengths are justified in putitng them in jail. Further, many judges agree and even if they don't they are totally ignorant of the how computers and the internet work so they will belive statements like "a person's IP number is like their social security number on the internet, whereever it goes it necessarily follows that the person is there." Abuse of the law in this area is a huge problem and I don't see any good fixes because anyone who stands up and says there is a problem is immediately branded as a closet pervert.

  • ||

    I'm convinced that there is not one of us anywhere who couldn't be sent to prison if someone had it in for us. Now, there comes a point when a statement like the one above changes from a rhetorical score to a visceral reality.

  • Sir Disgrace||

    I wonder how many people have gone to prison for having a Traci Lords movie or two.

  • ||

    I wonder how many people have gone to prison for having a Traci Lords movie or two.

    Dunno, but I'll bet they sell for more than the original purchase price.

  • brian423||

    J sub D:
    What is the hangup about the human body? I was raised in a Roman Catholic household and still don't get it. Any insights into this aberrant mindset would be greatly appreciated.

    For what it's worth...

  • ||

    brian423:

    Thanks. Maybe the papists aren't as sexually repressed as commonly perceived.

  • Mephistophocles||

    I'm betting Thomas has some shady bits of behavior in his own past, probably kiddy-porn or something close to it. Something about his prosecution of this case just doesn't smell right. And due to his obvious lack of basic intelligence, it smacks of psychological revenge/justification. Any investigative reporters out there care to take a look-see?

  • ||

    I feel for the kid, but I'm ticked off at his parents. Nobody should get an always-on connection if they aren't clued in to basic internet security. You've got to secure your router, be it wired or wireless [no admin:admin passwording]. Make sure your hardware and/or software firewalls are active. Install antivirus and anti-spyware software and update it frequently. Hackers who turn your computer into a zombie are crooks, but leaving your machine naked to their attacks is like leaving your garage door open and complaining when your lawnmower is stolen. Don't bitch about the cost either. AVG is free, as are AdAwareSE and Microsoft Defender.

    Moms and Pops could also limit Junior's access to the `net, by means of establishing a separate user account with limited privileges, or using site-blocking software. I don't have kids and I know that.

    Now, if one 16-year-old boy showing another 16-year-old boy a picture of an 18+-year-old centerfold model is a crime, quite a few of us reading this are felons.

    Kevin

  • ||

    """." Abuse of the law in this area is a huge problem and I don't see any good fixes because anyone who stands up and says there is a problem is immediately branded as a closet pervert.""""

    Who says the solution has to be good? Many of the so called solutions imposed on us by government are not good. So solutions imposed onto government by us need not meet a "good" requirement. I say if the prosecutor can't win the case he can be sued for make false accusations leading to imprisionment or arrest. Sure, some "innocent" prosecutors could be jailed, but they don't really care about jailing innocent people so why should they be treated different?

    Sure that's a bad solution with many problems. I'm not serious about it being a solution. I believe in quality as most of us do. Righting the wrong is the best course. But we've been fighting the drug war for over 150 years. We can raise our fists and shout into the air, but it will be business as usual for those who seek power to punish people for things they "believe" is wrong.

    A more serious solution may be to pass a law on statute abuse, (unlike statue abuse), or have the bar take a zero tolerence policy for ethics and monitor prosecutors for abuse of law and remove them from the bar at the hint of abuse.

    I'm not a fan of zero tolerence policies but since they are applied to use, I see no problem with applying it to them.

    Turnabout is fair play.

  • Jennifer||

    I feel for the kid, but I'm ticked off at his parents. Nobody should get an always-on connection if they aren't clued in to basic internet security.

    But if you're not clued in to basic Internet security, you're not going to know this.

  • TH||

    Andrew Thomas is the same guy that credulously believes that hiring someone to smuggle you across the border is the exact same thing as being a smuggler. (And that anyone who hires a smuggler should serve some ridiculous prison term as such.)

    And he probably is a slight improvement over the last Maricopa County Attorney.

  • ||

    ...if you're not clued in to basic Internet security, you're not going to know this. - Jennifer



    Yeah, that's a Catch-22. Now, I was not an early adapter in the computer area. I only bought my first home machine a little over five years ago. But I read magazines and books on the subject, and accessed the net from public sources well before I signed up for my first dial-up account. Ads for anti-virus and anti-spyware programs run on TV and radio nowadays, and for ISPs that claim that they have protections built into their interfaces. One would have to be invincibly ignorant not to realize that there are Bad Nasties on the intertubes, and that going naked on the net is dumb. OK, there are ignoramuses, and maybe the kid's folks are some of them.

    Kevin

  • ||

    "One would have to be invincibly ignorant not to realize that there are Bad Nasties on the intertubes, and that going naked on the net is dumb. OK, there are ignoramuses, and maybe the kid's folks are some of them."

    Needless to say that doesn't make them criminals. But, in this day and age we basically have strict liability for what is on your computer. If it is there some ignoramous prosecutor is going to conclude that you put it there and need to go to jail.

  • ||

    Wonder why they call AZ a red state? It's the neck. For some strange reason, any state that has become a retirement mecca gets a blank check written to law enforcement for civil right abuses, and unreasonable ( and unlawful) prosecutions and procedure abound without even a raised eyebrow by the populace. I think Maricopa County should do more about DWO ( driving while old ) than investigating kids for looking at...what?! A felony? Jeez...bet the prosecutor loves sharing alcohol and meth with his underage male prostitute. Probably what made him so vigilant about the case...the boy was looking at WOMEN.

  • Thomas Paine\'s Goiter||

    Thomas need to off himself and save the world and the time and the trouble.

  • ||

    """Wonder why they call AZ a red state? It's the neck. For some strange reason, any state that has become a retirement mecca gets a blank check written to law enforcement for civil right abuses, and unreasonable ( and unlawful) prosecutions and procedure abound without even a raised eyebrow by the populace. """

    Get with the times Ed. That sounds very Republican today.

    Sounds like the last 6 years of our Republican controlled government.

    Ok, I'm half kidding. The problem is not red or blue, but addiction to power. No political party has a monopoly on that.

  • ||

    For some strange reason, any state that has become a retirement mecca gets a blank check written to law enforcement for civil right abuses, and unreasonable ( and unlawful) prosecutions and procedure abound without even a raised eyebrow by the populace.

    Because there is nothing more fascist than a fucking old fart.

  • Jonathan Bernstein||

    This is Jonathan Bernstein, the crisis management consultant and geek who took the Bandy's story to 20/20 and got Matt and his family them ready to "go public" with their website, http://www.justice4matt.com. They're still offline but will be back online soon - with a Mac this time, their solution to improved security (I'm PC all the way). Even after they get online, though, the Bandy parents really don't know how to get around on blogs and Matt's not allowed to post until his probation is over, so I'm doing the trekking for them to thank everyone who's passed the word on. We think ABC and 20/20 did a GREAT job on air and online, but if you want the whole story, with evidence, go our site.

    P.S. Hey Akira, I'm kinda an old fart (55) myself, but have been online longer than a lot of bloggers have been alive...so maybe we're not ALL fascists

  • ||

    "Because there is nothing more fascist than a fucking old fart."

    Except, perhaps, a young fucker who thinks he knows more than all those who have managed to live long enough to become old farts.

  • ||

    And if they are old and STILL fucking, more power to them!

  • Larry A||

    Ads for anti-virus and anti-spyware programs run on TV and radio nowadays, and for ISPs that claim that they have protections built into their interfaces. One would have to be invincibly ignorant not to realize that there are Bad Nasties on the intertubes, and that going naked on the net is dumb.



    1. How many warning labels do you see every day? How many do you pay attention to?
    2. You also get ads on your computer offering to protect it. Don't click on them.

    Thomas, who comes across as dishonest and not terribly bright, is unrepentant, saying he hopes Bandy learned a "hard lesson" about the dangers of looking at dirty pictures.



    Dangers that are the exclusive result of government overreaction.

  • ||

    I send you links to publications about my case.
    I was forced to confess to the
    possession of internet digital pictures of porn in deleted clusters of
    my computer hard drive. My browser was hijacked while I was browsing
    the web. I was redirected to illegal sites against my will. Some
    illegal pictures were found on my hard drive, recovering in
    unallocated clusters, without dates of file creation/download.

    I do not know how courts can widely press these charges on people to
    convict them, while the whole Internet is a mess.

    This is my story in inquisition21.com. There is all
    information about case written by Irish writer Brian
    Rothery. You can see a lot of violations of law by police

    http://www.inquisition21.com/article~view~7~page_num~3.html

    This is publication in Wired news

    http://www.wired.com/news/infostructure/0,1377,63391,00.html

    This is publication in Theregester

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/05/13/browser_hijacking_risks/

    Article in Globe and Mail newspaper
    http://ctv.globetechnology.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20040617.gttwhijac17/tech/Technology/techBN/ctv-technology

    Article in ZDnet
    http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1105_2-5344831.html

    This is article in Washington Times, May 22, 2004
    There is information about my case.

    http://www.cato.org/cgi-bin/scripts/printtech.cgi/dailys/05-30-04.html

    Article in Crime research center:

    http://www.crime-research.org/news/07.22.2004/506/

    Article in Dallas, TX Newspaper

    http://www.crime-research.org/news/24.12.2004/862/

    Child porn law was declared unconstitutional in Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA'
    http://xbiz.com/news_piece.php?id=11750

  • ||

    Fima,

    You were of course one of thousands fitted up, based on laws that are as dangerous as the people that enforce them.

    That is an utter outrage. It cuts through all the propaganda, that the state in the US and the UK are dangerous.

    The police that prosecuted yours and the child's case broke their oath of office. They swore to uphold the constitution and broke it. They were therefore not legitimate police officers, and these are examples of their crimes.

  • Rich||

    These guys must be related to Nifong.

  • The Bandy Team||

    Here's another scathing story about the Bandy case, published January 25.


    Doubting Thomas
    By Sarah Fenske

    County prosecutors charged a teenager with looking at kiddy porn. Turns out they hadn't done their homework

    http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/Issues/2007-01-25/news/news_print.html


    Thanks,

    The Bandy Team
    http://www.justice4matt.com

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