Sex Crimes

Cops Dig Desperately for a Picture That Can Send a Harmless Old Man to Jail

Prosecutors say the former professor poses no threat but should be locked up anyway.

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University of Virginia Police Department

Police dug through Walter Korte's trash four times. They searched his car, his office, and his home. They found thousands of pictures, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports, including "magazine clippings of celebrities" as well as "erotic and pornographic pictures that appeared to be printed off websites." The "vast majority" of the images "appeared legal and depicted adults and transgender individuals." Some of the photos showed "young men clothed and unclothed," some of whom "appeared to be in their late teens." One of those pictures was ultimately determined to qualify as child pornography under Virginia law, meaning that it was a "sexually explicit" image of "an identifiable minor," i.e., someone younger than 18. As a result, Korte, a former film studies professor at the University of Virginia with no criminal record, faces up to a year in jail and registration as a sex offender under a plea agreement a judge is considering.

According to the proposed plea deal, Korte "knowingly possess[ed] child pornography," a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The "knowingly" part is a bit puzzling, since even the police did not know that the single purportedly illegal image, showing a boy in his "late teens," was child pornography until they consulted experts at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It also is not clear why prosecutors, who noted that "police did not find evidence of any hands-on crimes against minors" and that a "psychosexual evaluation" indicated Korte "would not be a risk for hands-on offending," are insisting that he register as a sex offender, which is not required by statute for possession of child pornography unless it is a second offense. The whole point of registration is supposed to be protecting people from "hands-on crimes." When prosecutors admit a defendant poses no such risk but want him to register anyway, they reinforce the impression that registration is actually punishment in the guise of regulation.

The local CBS station reports that the sentencing judge, Cheryl Higgins, "expressed some concerns about the plea deal and said she would prefer to hold a pre-sentencing hearing before accepting Korte's plea." Higgins also asked that the single image on which the case against Korte is based "be filed with the court under seal so it could be used to determine Korte's sentence." I can't tell whether Higgins is worried that the plea deal is too hard on Korte or too easy on him. But I can't see what is gained by locking up a 73-year-old man who poses no threat to public safety or by branding him as a dangerous predator.

Campus police at the University of Virginia began the investigation that led to Korte's arrest in July 2016 based on a tip that someone had left child pornography in a trash bin near the school. According to the Times-Dispatch, the caller also mentioned that "several faculty members in nearby buildings recently had been cleaning out their offices." That tip about child pornography was almost certainly wrong, since just one of the thousands of pictures that police eventually seized was deemed illegal, and chances are it was not lying on top of the bin the first time they came by. The desperate searches that followed were aimed at validating the original, spurious report, all for the sake of sending a harmless old man to jail over a piece of paper. When I say "pedophilia panic," this is the sort of thing I have in mind.

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  1. Jacob Sullum,

    Vying for the worst of official writers again are you?

      1. Fags belong in hell. Tired of Cretin Magazine defending them.

      2. Mr. Easterly is obviously afflicted with pedophilia panic. He’s appalled that Sullum didn’t recommend castration and the death penalty for the old man.

        Unless you recognize that attraction to anybody under the age of 18 is the worst kind of evil (worse than mass murder and torture even), you must be a sicko yourself. /s

  2. And when I say “Pedophile Panic” I mean my Ska/Swing Revival act.

  3. One of those pictures was ultimately determined to qualify as child pornography under Virginia law, meaning that it was a “sexually explicit” image of “an identifiable minor,” i.e., someone younger than 18.

    I admit that I looked like I could be younger than 18 into my mid 20’s. EXCEPT WHERE IT COUNTED IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. I can’t imagine why this old dude’s attorney would agree to a plea unless this photo was of a preteen or someone whose identity could be determined (which, if Sullum is to be believed, it couldn’t).

    1. “The “knowingly” part is a bit puzzling, since even the police did not know that the single purportedly illegal image, showing a boy in his “late teens,” was child pornography until they consulted experts at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children”

      They went to someone for whom anyone without gray hair is a teen and had it confirmed that “yes indeed, in our expert opinion, this may very well be a minor. It’s just our opinion mind you but since we have a 501c to finance, we had better find child pornography in everything we see.”

      1. They went to someone for whom anyone without gray hair is a teen and had it confirmed that “yes indeed, in our expert opinion, this may very well be a minor. It’s just our opinion mind you but since we have a 501c to finance, we had better find child pornography in everything we see.”

        It’s not clear from the story whether the NCMEC purported to analyze the photo and determine the subject was underage based on that analysis or if the NCMEC simply determined the subject was underage by comparing it to their library of subjects of pornographic images. If it was the latter, it’s a much less subjective question.

    2. Looks like because after a tremendous amount of digging, they found evidence that one person was slightly younger than 18. This is enough

      1. Evidence that seems remarkably easy to put in doubt.

        1. “BestUsedCarSales” is very stupid. You’ll have to break it down even further for him.

          1. Please. If we could avoid words more than one syllable long and no double “e”s that would help.

        2. Evidence that seems remarkably easy to put in doubt.

          Not necessarily — it says they determined the subject’s age by going to the NCMEC. The NCMEC maintains a library of subjects of pornographic images specifically to facilitate proving that the subject of a particular photo was underaged when it was taken. If the photo matched the appearance of John Smith at age 17 years and 362 days on file with the NCMEC, it would be extremely difficult to fight the “identifiable minor” element of the charge and everything would turn on the “knowingly possessed” element.

  4. “magazine clippings of celebrities” as well as “erotic and pornographic pictures that appeared to be printed off websites.”

    What is it with old people and printers. They print EVERYTHING.

    1. You can’t bring your full-size desktop into bed with you.

    2. I unfriend you!

  5. When I say “pedophilia panic,” this is the sort of thing I have in mind.

    You should see what I have in mind.

  6. Let us look at the brighter side. At the ripe old age of 73 he will get free healthcare.

  7. I doubt the government will try and prosecute all the employees at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMES) which has hundreds of thousands of pictures of minors that have been deemed child pornography. It’s financed by Congress but it’s a private group, so there is no law enforcement exception.

    Like the sexual offender registries, these prosecutions are just ways to unconstitutionally Lock up creepy people.

  8. In Albemarle’s Circuit Court on Tuesday, Korte was ready to enter into a plea agreement with the commonwealth’s attorney’s office. Given his lack of criminal history, under the commonwealth’s sentencing guidelines, he would likely receive probation with no incarceration, and would not be required to register as a sex offender.
    But the plea agreement would require Korte to serve up to 12 months in jail, register as a sex offender and waive all issues on appeal, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Galloway said in court.

    I’d be looking into a psychiatric exam, possibly a bar complaint against his lawyer, if the crazy old man is thinking of taking a plea deal that offers a harsher penalty than if he’s convicted at trial. The give-away is that
    waiving appeals bullshit at the end – that means the prosecutor knows there’s some bullshit involved. A single picture of an unidentifiable young man? That means they’ve got no evidence whatsoever. There’s no way they’ve got any real case, they’re relying on being able to smoke the jury. Fucking prosecutor ought to be beat to death with a copy of “Legal Ethics For Dummies”.

  9. “several faculty members in nearby buildings recently had been cleaning out their offices.”

    “If you see something, say something.”

    1. I think that is the most disturbing aspect of this; schools and colleges a encouraging and training students to report on one another, and the general population has certainly embraced the notion to, as you say, see something, say something. Do the right thing and call Comrade Detective.

  10. I bet the people in that community feel SO protected now. Yessir, that dog-ed investigation sifting through thousands of images found one pic that “may” be inappropriate. Where did it come from I wonder.

    Sometimes these LE agencies are like a dog searching for a bone they buried and can’t find. That old professor is probably afraid, otherwise, I have no idea why he would agree to any plea deal. BTW- Plea Deals are nothing more than State sanctioned extortion. SHould be abolished.

    1. No plea bargains? The court system would have to deal with evidence, juries, bail, police perjury, and real trials with actual rules. Can’t have that and still have speedy trials, because the “justice”system is so fucked up. Everyone accused of a crime should insist on a trial by jury. The prosecutors would have to actually do some work and understand the “law”.

      1. By the way, FYTW is not a “law”, though it is most often used for “justification”.

  11. The “knowingly” part is a bit puzzling

    *** scratches head ***

    Oh, of course! It’s the *Biblical* sense!

  12. I took one of Prof. Korte’s film classes in college. His excitement about assigning Todd Solondz films for us to watch is now kind of disturbing.

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