Lawyer must pay $300K for child porn trial exhibits

By Pat Murphy

Dolan Media Newswires

An Ohio lawyer must pay $300,000 for digitally manipulating the images of two children to create trial exhibits designed to clear defendants of child pornography charges.

The 6th Circuit earlier this month agreed that Lakewood, Ohio, attorney Dean Boland incurred civil liability under federal child pornography statutes when he downloaded stock photos of children from the web and digitally imposed the children's faces onto the bodies of adults performing sex acts.

"When [Boland] created morphed images, he intended to help criminal defendants, not harm innocent children," wrote Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton in Doe v. Boland. "Yet his actions did harm children, and Congress has shown that it 'means business' in addressing this problem by creating sizeable damages awards for victims of this conduct."

According to court records, in February 2004, Dean Boland downloaded images of two identifiable children from a stock photography website. Using images of adult pornography, Boland digitally manipulated the children's photographs to make it look like they were engaged in sex acts. In March and April 2004, Boland used the images when he testified as a defense expert in several child pornography trials in Ohio and Oklahoma. By displaying "before-and-after" versions of the images, Boland's aim was to convince jurors that it would be "impossible" for a person to know that the subject was an actual minor.

Boland's testimony triggered an FBI investigation and federal criminal charges. According to court records, in 2007 Boland entered a pre-trial diversion agreement with federal prosecutors in which he admitted violating federal law by knowingly possessing a "visual depiction [that] has been created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct."

While Boland was trying to put the criminal matter behind him, the parents of the children whose images he had used to create his trial exhibits sued for civil damages.

Pursuant to those statutes, a federal judge in Ohio awarded $150,000 to each of the children whose images Boland used.

In upholding the lower court judgment, Judge Sutton acknowledged that the $300,000 award was "tough medicine," but ultimately concluded the lawyer only had himself to blame.

"If he felt compelled to make his point with pornography, he could have used images of adults or virtual children," Sutton wrote. "Instead, he chose an option Congress explicitly forbade: morphed images of real children in sexually explicit scenes. That choice was not protected by the First Amendment, and the children therefore are entitled to the relief Congress offered them."

Published: Mon, Nov 26, 2012

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