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Former Maryland trooper guilty on child porn charges

December 12, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - Following a contentious bench trial Tuesday, a Washington County judge found a former Maryland State Police trooper guilty of five counts of possession of child pornography.

Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael showed that Brian H. Murphy was in possession of five pornographic images, and that the actual child pictured in the photographs was younger than 16, Washington County District Judge Mark D. Thomas said.

The judge ruled that Murphy, 34, was not guilty of the other five counts of possession of child pornography with which he was charged.

Thomas, who described the case as "challenging," said the state presented inadequate evidence regarding the age of the individual pictured in the other images.

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A sentencing date will be set later, Thomas said.

Murphy retired from the Maryland State Police some time after charges against him were filed, said Atchuthan "Sris" Sriskandarajah, president of the law firm that represented Murphy. Sriskandarajah said he was not sure of the date Murphy retired.

Murphy retired on medical disability, Sriskandarajah said.

Murphy, who had been a trooper for seven years and was assigned to road patrol duties at the Frederick barracks, was suspended from duty May 10, Maryland State Police said in a press release dated June 7.

According to Washington County District Court documents, charges against Murphy were filed June 7.

Maryland State Police troopers from the computer crimes division testified Tuesday that they executed two search warrants at Murphy's Boonsboro home. The first search was May 10, and the second was May 30, Sgt. John Casey of the state police computer crimes division testified.

A Dell computer, digital camera, flash drive, iPod and a multimedia card were among the items seized from Murphy's home, troopers testified.

Casey, who was admitted as an expert witness during the trial, analyzed the data on the seized items, he testified.

A hidden file known as a thumbs.db file, which catches thumbnails of images viewed as thumbnails, was the center of much of the expert testimony Tuesday.

Casey found suspected child pornography images on the thumbs.db file, he testified.

The thumbs.db file was the only evidence of pornographic images on the computer, Casey testified.

Data prior to early April didn't exist because the computer's operating system had been reinstalled - another expert witness referred to it as 'reinitialized' - April 4.

Data also didn't exist for July 2006, Casey testified. The July 2006 time frame was important because events implicating Murphy occurred July 24, 2006.

According to charging documents, an Austrian network administrator recorded more than 8,000 hits to a Web page containing pornographic images. Austrian police forwarded the 600 recorded American IP addresses to law enforcement in the United States.

A FBI agent contacted Sgt. Matthew Kail of the Maryland State Police regarding an IP address in Maryland, Kail testified Tuesday. Antietam Cable provided information indicating that the IP address in question belonged to Murphy, Kail testified.

During Kail's testimony, defense attorney Constance Camus made a motion to suppress the search warrant as evidence, and repeatedly objected, challenging the reliability of the affidavit and search warrant, alleging it was based on hearsay.

Thomas later denied her motion to suppress.

The defense also called an expert witness - John Simek, of Sensei Enterprises Inc. in Fairfax, Va. He also analyzed the digital evidence.

Simek found no evidence of the Austrian videos mentioned in the charging documents, he testified. He also didn't find any evidence of the computer's user actively searching for child pornography, Simek testified.

The images identified by law enforcement as pornographic images of an actual child were recorded on the thumbs.db hidden file, which means they were on the computer at some point and later were deleted, he testified. Someone could have unintentionally downloaded a small amount of child pornography while downloading adult pornography, Simek testified.

Kail testified during Tuesday's trial that Murphy willingly told troopers that he had been viewing pornography since he was a teenager, and accessed free pornography sites.

The defense plans to appeal the case to Circuit Court, Sriskandarajah said after Thomas ruled.

The law recently changed from "knowingly" possessing child pornography to "knowingly" possessing and to "intentionally retain" the images, Camus said during her closing arguments. Under the new law, it's highly unlikely the court would have found that Murphy violated the law, Sriskandarajah said.

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