Monday, February 12, 2007

One law for us, another for you.

The stench from the legal prosecution of Matt Bandy continues and desperate hacks for Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas are doing their best to smear Matt.

Several times people have commented about how easy it is for unwanted and unknown images to appear on one’s hard drive. And the question has come up what the prosecutors do if it happened to them, their family or their allies. Now we know.

The full force of the law was used against Matt Bandy. He faced a compulsory, 90 year minimum sentence in prison because nine images were found on his computer and representatives of Andrew Thomas’ office said he put them there willingly. In reality there are half a dozen ways minimum that images can end up in your computer files without your consent or knowledge.

But when it was discovered that Don Lafrenier, who had been with Sahuarita, Arizona police department, had 17 images, defined as child pornography, on his lap top what did the authorities do?

Remember Lafrenier was a full grown adult when his case arose and Matt Bandy was a 16 year old kid. So surely they went after Lafrenier with more force and authority than they did to this kid. Add onto the case the fact that Lafrenier had been a public official, an officer of the law, and you’d think that they would really throw the book at him. They didn’t. They did nothing. I’m not saying they were wrong here. I’m merely illustrating the difference of how the law treats one of their own and how they treat the serfs, I mean the average person.

Lt. Ryan Young of the the local police explained why the Attorney General decided not to prosecute Lafrenier. I quote how it was reported by the Grass Valley (AZ) News.

The decision not to press charges was made by the Attorney General’s office, which typically does not press charges unless there is evidence that someone with pornographic images actively used those images, Young said. That’s because Internet users can find unwanted images, including pornography, “popping up” on their screens, and even if they delete the images, a record of that image will remain in their computer, Young said.

The justification is partially reasonable and partially not. First, this is what happened to Matt Bandy yet he was prosecuted and faced what amounted to life in jail. And if Lafrenier had been prosecuted he would have faced a minimum term of 170 years in prison. Arizona is bonkers folks. One man recently received a 200 year sentence for 20 photographs he downloaded from the internet, or is alleged to have downloaded. And Arizona courts ruled the sentence is neither cruel nor unusual. I suggest it is cruel, it is unusual and it is insane.

People ought to be outraged but the moment someone whines: “What about the kids?” the public goes into a hypnotic stupor and chants “more prison time, more prison time.”

So police officer Lafrenier was facing the potential of 170 years in prison. But charges are dropped because the District Attorney says people can’t necessarily be held responsible for images found on their computer. Andrew Thomas says they can and tried to send Matt Bandy to prison for life.

But Bandy was no police officer. He wasn’t “one of the boys” and we know law enforcement looks out for one another. So how do you find a difference between the case of Lafrenier and the case of Matt Bandy? You need something to justify throwing the book at the kid and looking the other way for the cop. And the key is found in the phrase “actively used” the images.

What is meant by active use? The local press explains this means “categorized, saved to a compact disc or e-mailed to others.”

Does that necessarily make sense? Some does and some doesn’t. If someone e-mails an image to a friend then they know the image is there. But one’s computer can become part of a zombie network used by hackers to send out e-mails. So e-mails go out from your computer and you are not aware of it. Active use for sure but not your active use. Can the cops tell the difference?

What I assuming here is that they are saying is that the cop's computer had images and it but it doesn’t appear he moved them around. Therefore they conclude he didn’t know they were there. In Matt’s case the images went into the system and sat in a file that was on a CDRom. So that is considered “active use”.

I think they were clutching for a way to save the cop, crucify Matt and justify both. The distinction between the two cases (while both are in Arizona they had different prosecutors but I am sure the prosecutor knew of the Bandy case) is nebulous at best.

Now that this DA has conceded that images can end up on a computer without one’s knowledge can their be evidence of active use and the owner still be innocent?

The answer is yes. As already noted the individual running the zombie network can plant images in a file on your computer and then use your computer to send them to others. In fact if it were being used for such purposes you would assume that active use of the images is more of an indicator of innocence than of guilt.

Consider two cases. Computer A is part of a zombie network. Why is it part of a zombie network? So the controller of the network can use it! Computer B is not part of a network and thus not used actively. The images are not sent to anyone. At least when it comes to zombie networks it would seem that active use is more likely to be found with the innocent person than with the guilty person.

In Matt’s case the images were buried in a file that was buried in a file, in another file for several layers deep which was found on a CDRom. How could this happen, ask the the law crowd, without intent?

Very easily in fact. One can join groups which where the members send out images. Now often anyone can post to that group. The group might be images from mainstream films or it might be legal, adult erotica or anything in between. One person posts a message to that group which contains 20 images and five of them might be questionable. No one asked for the questionable images nor did they know they were coming.

You open your e-mail and find a message with 20 images. If you are a group member five or six other people might have sent multiple images as well, all legal. You might have 100 images. You are in rush and put all these images in a folder without necessarily viewing them first. They are now in the folder and you wish to later go through them and throw out anything you don’t want. You are still unaware of the content of the suspect images.

A few days later you realize your holding folder is getting full. You’ve been throwing these excess images into the folder for a couple of weeks. And the computer is running slow. So you decide to dump things to a CD for storage to free up computer space. Now you could have a few thousand images to inspect. But if you had trouble inspecting 100 images you are not likely to sit down and spend some hours going through thousands of files. So you drag all the files onto the CD and copy them. And then you throw out the original and leave the CD around for “later”.

You received the image but didn’t see it. You put it in one folder still without looking at it. You now stored that folder on a CD without going through that folder. But in moving it twice you “actively used” the image and would be guilty under the Lafrenier principle. Meanwhile a cop, for instance, could download the images, view them numerous times but never move them and his use is "inactive". He is considered innocent and you are considered guilty.

But this can also happen in ways where you didn’t make an effort to subscribe to a group. The zombie controller places images in storage inside a sub-sub file on your computer. You don’t know it is there. You move some files onto the disk to make room. Before you do that you don’t inspect every folder and ever sub folder within every folder. You just copy the whole lot over. And you may delete the originals keeping them on on disk. You are now an “active” user of the file you didn’t know existed and have never seen.

It is recommended that you back up the content of your computer regularly. That means you copy the contents of your disk onto disks and store them to replace things just in case the system crashes and destroys data you need. When you back up your system you back up all the files including the files you don’t know about. Once again you have become an “active” user of files which you didn’t know existed.

On the surface the distinction between the two cases sounds plausible. But with only a few seconds consideration you realize the differences are not substantive at all.

Perhaps what is really happening is old as time itself. The political class that rules always feels there is one set of rules for the plebes and another set for themselves. Prosecutors and cops are on the same side, that is why they so often cover up for each other. Law is for the common folk who need to be controlled not by the social elite who are the controllers.

This not rare. The average American is herded into social security. Congress exempted themselves from the system. A political candidate can spend millions of his own funds to win election. If you are a millionaire and want to fund his opponent you can’t do it. You are a plebe and he is one of the masters of the realm.

Since there is a great deal of discretionary power the DA in the Lafrenier case decided not to prosecute. It was a police officer. Andrew Thomas was ready to crucify Matt Bandy but he was just a kid. He wasn’t one of the rulers. This sounds far more likely to be the reason Officer Lafrenier was ignored and Matt Bandy was run through the wringer -- and is still being run through the wringer by Thomas’ close assistant, Rachel Alexander.

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