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Accused pedo Naughton gets a breather

But an encore in the dock is looming

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Former Disney Go Network exec and Java developer Patrick Naughton's conviction on child pornography possession has been tossed by a federal judge following an appellate decision finding portions of the law under which he was convicted to be unconstitutional. The jury had originally deadlocked on whether Naughton intended to have sex with a thirteen-year-old girl he'd met in an Internet chat room, resulting in a mis-trial on those counts. While he did travel to meet the 'girl' (who was in reality an FBI agent), the jury could not be convinced that Naughton actually believed her to be thirteen when he made that decision. His attorneys argued that he could have been engaging in mere role-playing in the chat room, with no firm idea who he was dealing with. Then, at the point of meeting, the feds blew the prosecution's case with their over-eagerness to arrest Naughton, which they did before he gave any firm indication of what he'd been expecting, or what he intended. On Friday, District Judge Edward Rafeedie granted a defence motion for re-trial on Naughton's pornography charge, since the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals tossed sections of the Child Pornography Prevention Act which bear on his conviction. Naughton has scant reason for celebration, however. He may yet be re-tried on all counts. The two charges, that he used the Net and crossed state lines to have sex with a minor, and which resulted in the deadlocked jury, are scheduled for retrial on 21 March. As for the porn charge, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the law exceeded constitutional bounds by outlawing materials which merely appear to be sexual images of children. US law requires convictions deriving from an unconstitutional law to be reversed, even if the specific portion of the law relevant to the conviction is not addressed by the appellate ruling. Naughton apparently did possess sexual images of adult models which merely appeared to be those of children, and he can't be convicted for storing them on his computer unless the appellate ruling is successfully challenged in the Supreme Court. However, he was also accused of storing sexual images of actual children on his computer, an allegation which his attorneys have never challenged. His re-trial on that accusation is likely to result in some manner of penalty, the severity of which may well be influenced by the outcome of his re-trial on charges he intended to have sex with a minor. If the feds again fail to nail him on interstate travel, they may well seek the maximum penalty for the porn charge, and Naughty Naughton may yet spend a couple of years in the slam. ®

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