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Restrictions sought for child-porn access

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Jan. 11, 2012 at 4:46 pm with No Comments »
January 11, 2012 4:46 pm

Pierce County made national headlines last year when a convicted child pornographer was allowed to watch videos depicting child sex while in jail preparing for his next trial.

The situation could have been worse, county Prosecutor Mark Lindquist says: If Weldon Marc Gilbert had been out on bail, he could have taken copies of the videos home.

“That’s just completely wrong,” Lindquist said.

Prosecutors want more restrictions on the copying and dissemination of child pornography as part of criminal cases. They call for containing it to a police evidence room or other secure spot where defense attorneys and their clients could come to review it.

Defenders say it would put them in the awkward position of preparing their cases at the police station.

“We don’t want to be in a position where our defense is somehow revealed,” Amy Muth, a lawyer and member of the Washington Defender Association and Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, told lawmakers at a hearing today.

There would be an exception for defense experts in the proposal under consideration in the Legislature. Tacoma Democratic Rep. Connie Ladenburg’s legislation would let a judge allow approved experts to have off-site access to a “mirror image” of a hard drive, or even the hard drive itself under a restrictive court order.

Either way, Lindquist said, law enforcement wouldn’t have to copy images or videos to discs and hand them out, as he said his office did for the more than 100 videos it accuses Gilbert of filming. The Lake Tapps man is acting as his own lawyer.

“We actually had to manufacture a copy for him,” Lindquist said. “I view that as significant because every time you copy child pornography and distribute it, you’re re-victimizing the victim.”

Ladenburg’s legislation may be reworked to resolve separation-of-powers worries that sprang up at the public hearing.

If it becomes law, it would have little effect on the core fact that offended some in Gilbert’s case: that a defendant could be allowed to view such videos. The state Supreme Court ruled in 2007 a defense attorney is entitled to copies of child pornography being used as the prosecution’s evidence.

Police say Gilbert, a millionaire former UPS pilot, lured more than a dozen boys to his home with money, alcohol and rides on his boat and helicopter, then paddled and molested them. His trial on charges of child rape, child molestation and other sex offenses starts Thursday but prosecutors expect a postponement. A federal court convicted him on separate charges in 2009.

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