Last week a California state prosecutor was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography. Raymond Liddy, who is the son of the notorious Watergate Scandal participant Gordon Liddy, reportedly downloaded, and possibly forwarded, sexually explicit photographs of children. Liddy pleaded not guilty to the crime and was released on $100,000 bond. If convicted, Liddy could face serious and life-long consequences for his actions.
The Los Angeles Times reports that tips about the presence of child pornography on two electronic service providers’ servers were sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tax force. The task force traced the account associated with these tips to Liddy’s Coronado home. Liddy reportedly told investigators that the account, email address, screen name, and aliases associated with the investigation were his. Liddy reportedly admitted that he downloaded sexually explicit photographs, often for a brief period of time, and then deleted them. The article also states that Liddy mentioned that he may have forwarded these sexually explicit photographs to others before deleting them. While executing a search pursuant to a warrant, police found evidence which apparently confirms that Liddy was, in fact, in possession of child porn.
California Penal Code Sections 311.1 and 311.2 make it a crime to possess child pornography. To be guilty of this crime a person must knowingly possess or control pornographic material which depicts a person under the age of 18. What qualifies as pornographic material? Generally, pornographic material is anything (photographs, negatives, slides, filmstrips, video, etc.) that depicts sexual conduct. Sexual conduct is a broadly defined term which can range from sexual intercourse to depiction of nudity for the purpose of sexual stimulation. One of the photographs found on Liddy’s computer reportedly depicted a naked girl whose hands were bound together. Possessing this photograph is likely in violation of the law because it depicts a naked child for the purposes of sexual gratification.
For a first-time offender, possession of child porn can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The severity of the charge often depends on the severity of the offense. Factors that can affect the sentence include whether the material was obscene, if the offender intended to distribute the material for commercial purposes, or if the offender intended to share the material with a minor. Misdemeanor possession of child pornography is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Felony possession of child pornography is punishable by 16 months to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Given the details provided by the Los Angeles Times article, it is possible that Liddy could face additional charges and/or aggravated sentencing for his acts. If Liddy did, in fact, forward emails containing child pornography he could be guilty of distributing child pornography under California Penal Code Section 311.2 and/or sexual exploitation of a child under California Penal Code Section 311.3. Both of these offenses, if charged separately, can be punished by up to one year in jail and/or by fines of up to $2,000. Forwarding the emails could also be considered as an aggravating factor when determining the severity of the child pornography possession charge and appropriate sentence.
Liddy, who has served as a state prosecutor for nearly a decade, will also face the possibility of significant non-criminal consequences if he is convicted of possessing child porn. As an attorney, he is bound to a strict ethical code of conduct, and failing to adhere to this code could result in the revocation of his license to practice law. Additionally, Liddy, if convicted, would also be required to register as a sex offender in the state of California. The names of registered sex offenders in California are maintained on a searchable online database along with details including home address, photograph, identifying personal information, and the crime(s) which required registration. Registered sex offenders often face heightened public scrutiny and have difficulties finding housing and employment.
As the story involving California deputy attorney general Raymond Liddy continues to unfold, it is likely that more details will emerge to help shape how he will be prosecuted and punished. While evidence collected during a legal search of Liddy’s home seemingly indicate that he was in possession of child pornography, Liddy’s criminal defense attorney will likely fight the allegations that Liddy knowingly possessed child porn.
Liddy reportedly told police that he did, in fact, use the electronic servers to download pornographic material, but indicated that he was targeting photographs depicting consensual sexual conduct between adults. Furthers investigations into the offense will be required to shed more light on the matter. In the meantime, Liddy’s criminal defense attorneys are hard at work crafting his defense.