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On June 9, , Javier Perez's dream of becoming a college math professor came to an abrupt end. Just after 6am, Perez's housemate was jarred from sleep by pounding at the front door of the Oak Hill house they shared with one other roommate. A brace of law enforcement officers -- FBI agents, accompanied by investigators with the Texas attorney general's Cyber Crimes Unit -- was demanding entry. By the end of that morning, Perez's academic ambitions were finished, and by December of the following year, Javier Perez known to his friends as "Jerry" was headed to a federal penitentiary in Louisiana to serve a month sentence for possession of child pornography.
At first, however, Perez had no idea what was happening or that he'd inexorably wind up in federal prison after pleading guilty to the possession charge. He had no way of knowing that he wasn't even the initial target of the officers' investigation -- as indicated by their search warrant -- nor that by having a shared Time Warner Cable Internet service in his name, he'd wind up in their investigative crosshairs. And he certainly did not know that the laws governing Internet usage, pornography, and even search warrants -- and more importantly, the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful search and seizure -- could be so easily manipulated in order to achieve "cyberporn" prosecutions and convictions.
Perez was sound asleep when the officers arrived, bearing a warrant ed by federal Magistrate Judge Robert Pitman. The warrant asserted that in February Perez had transmitted, via the Internet, a series of allegedly pornographic videos, depicting minors engaged in "sexual activity," to a woman in upstate New York who he had supposedly met in a Yahoo! The woman contacted local police to report seeing the videos, which she said she believed were being played on a TV placed in front of a webcam, including a video of two young girls dancing around a room, clad only in ballerina tutus.
The woman told police she'd seen other videos, depicting explicit sexual activity involving prepubescent minors, but the ballerina video was the only one the police actually saw. The Lakewood, N. Rob Ram" and that, at the time the ballerina video was transmitted, "famcple" had been online using an Internet protocol address owned by Time Warner Cable. The New York agents subpoenaed Time Warner seeking subscriber-billing information associated with that specific IP address. Britt ran a utilities check and confirmed that Perez's name was on the Austin Energy for the house on Scenic Brook Drive.
That was the extent of the official investigation; using just this basic information, Britt drafted a warrant, attesting that because "famcple" -- that is, presumably, Mr. Rob Ram -- used the IP address linked to Perez in order to transmit allegedly illegal pornography, the government could reasonably infer that evidence of said illegal activity would be found at Perez's home.
In other words, he told Judge Pitman, the mere association between Perez and the IP address in question created probable cause for police to search his home and to seize any computer equipment found there. On June 7, Pitman ed the warrant; two days later the agents came calling. Perez didn't hear Britt and the others arrive eight officers in all, he recalls , although the commotion roused his housemate Lee Atterberry from his bedroom in the far corner of the house. Atterberry opened the door to find a contingent of armed officers standing on the front walk.
He was surprised -- and it appeared the officers were as well, he later recalled. He was an avid winemaker, using local wild grapes; he was a trusted lead teller at a local branch of Wells Fargo bank; and he was rarely at home, because he was always out working or having fun with friends.
Why in the world would the feds come calling for Jerry? Atterberry told Britt that he rented a room from Perez, and Britt asked if "anyone else lived there," Atterberry recalled. There's Robert Ramos, and we're both, yes, renting rooms from Jerry. The officers ignored Atterberry's and Ramos' rooms -- and, apparently, the trail of ethernet cable that hardwired each man's computer to the Time Warner Internet modem -- and went right to Perez's door.
Britt told the court that the officers made only a cursory check of Atterberry's and Ramos' rooms, to make sure they were "secure. Perez was asleep, sprawled amid the piles of clothes on his waterbed, when he heard a man's deep voice coming from outside his locked bedroom door, followed by a series of loud, shuddering knocks. Perez was groggy and confused. Before he could react, the agents had "broken down the door. I didn't know why they were there, so I'm very confused," he recalled. Meanwhile, the team of officers searched his room, removing computer equipment and plastic storage tubs filled with spindles of computer discs.
Britt asked him, did he do any "Web stuff? No, he answered; Britt asked about "Web chat-room stuff. I knew something was up, but I never did any of that. I was never interested in webcams or 'chatting,'" Perez recalls.
I'd rather just call. By noon the officers had departed, taking with them Perez's computer, two hard drives, and nearly 4, CDs seized from his bedroom and from storage tubs stacked in his garage. The officers failed to find a webcam or any videos of child pornography -- like those that prompted the woman in New York to call the police -- or any information linking Perez to the name "Rob Ram" or to the Yahoo! The agents later claimed that Perez directed them to the discs containing child pornography, but Perez says he was held in the kitchen during the entire search.
In fact, there were many such images, they said, perhaps in all although this evidence is unavailable -- more than enough to charge Perez, now 40, with possession of child porn and to put him away in prison until mid, to ensure that he'll have to register with the state as a sex offender for the rest of his life and that he'll never again work as an educator. It wasn't until Lee Atterberry opened the door, agent Britt would later testify, that he had any notion that Perez had housemates. As far as Britt assumed, Perez lived alone. Of course, he admitted, he hadn't done any investigation to discover whether his assumption was sound.
He didn't drive by the house -- to see how many vehicles were there, for example, or to check the names listed inside the dented white metal mailbox planted at the curb. He didn't make a trash run -- seizing garbage from the can after it'd been rolled to the curb for collection -- as a means to check for occupant-identifying information, nor did he run the address through the Texas Department of Public Safety driver's database or contact the post office to see whether multiple people claimed the address as home.
That sort of investigation wasn't necessary, he said: The warrant in question was for the residence, not for an individual, so it simply didn't matter. Britt told the court that he remembered Atterberry answering the door that June morning but not what Atterberry said. What Britt knew and when he knew it is important. If, for example, he'd discovered that three people lived at the house before arriving on Perez's doorstep that morning -- and that one man, Robert Ramos, had a name quite similar to the Yahoo! Rob Ram," who allegedly transmitted pornography earlier that year -- the search at Scenic Brook Drive might have proceeded quite differently.
It is hard to imagine that after encountering armed agents at his front door, Atterberry would've failed to mention that a third person lived at the house as he testified he had done. The discovery of multiple occupants at the house created a hiccup in the raiding party's plans, causing them to pause albeit briefly before proceeding with the search but under ificant limitations. The initial warrant authorized the officers to search Perez's entire residence, but after encountering Atterberry, the officers revised their approach: Without returning to the magistrate to detail the change of circumstances as is usually required by law , they modified the scope of the warrant on the spot, to encompass only Perez's room and the common areas of the house.
Aside from glancing into the other two bedrooms -- for security reasons -- the officers completely ignored those areas of the home and whatever computer equipment or other evidence might have been discoverable there. At the time of the search, Ramos was not at home. Britt testified that there was in fact no evidence that connected Perez to the initial complaint -- that "famcple" had transmitted video child porn over the Internet -- other than that he was identified by Time Warner Cable as the person billed for Internet services at the Oak Hill home.
Interestingly, Britt said he understood the effect of using a computer router in the house -- as there was in Perez's house, hardwiring Atterberry's, Ramos', and Perez's computers to the single Time Warner Cable modem. That meant, Britt explained, that inside the house each of the computers coming from the router was ased its own internal version of the main IP address -- so that, for example, incoming e-mail would be routed to the right user -- but that, ultimately, all information leaving the house through the Time Warner modem would resolve back to the unique IP address the company had ased to the house and "not to the router and to the individual computer," Britt said.
From the outside looking in through the Time Warner information, it would seem as though all computer activity inside the house were coming from a single source. It would take actual investigation to find out if there were one, two, three, or more users inside the house -- but that's not what the FBI did, Britt said.
Instead, once the agents discovered there were multiple occupants within the house and multiple computers hooked up to the Internet, the agents decided to focus solely on the least discrete piece of evidence they had: the name of the person billed for Time Warner's services. In fact, the officers didn't even seize the router, although it was located in Perez's room. Jeffrey Eckert, part of Britt's warrant team, testified in If Britt's questionable search of Perez's property had failed to turn up any contraband, the investigation into Javier Perez likely would've died.
However, among the thousands of discs the feds seized from his home they did find allegedly contraband images. The definition of illegal child pornography -- that is, images depicting subjects deemed to be younger than 18 -- is subjective and depends on what the viewer in almost every case, solely law enforcement officers deems "obscene," "graphic sexual intercourse," or "lascivious exhibition of genitals or pubic area.
The arrangement allows prosecutors to cherry-pick evidence, perhaps selecting the most lewd images to present as representative, and limits defense ability to counter judgments about the age of the children allegedly depicted. In fact, there were apparently lots of pornographic images burned to numerous CDs Perez had randomly amassed over the years. This made it easy for the feds to label Perez as a devout collector of child porn. Yet Perez, his family, friends, the children that he tutored, and their parents find that characterization stunningly inaccurate.
Perez is not a sex offender, they say; he is not a predator nor would he ever think of hurting in any way, including by dealing in child pornography. Perez does admit that he had child-porn images in his possession that he downloaded from the Internet -- and in retrospect, he told federal District Judge Sam Sparks in December , he grasped the fact that by downloading the material he might be contributing in some way to the illicit market. But he -- along with his family, friends, and a psychologist, Dr. John Watterson -- insists that his massive downloading was actually symptomatic of his personal battle with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Perez hoarded everything; his house was packed full of stuff -- stacks of mail covered the living-room sofa and a reclining chair; stacks of picture frames leaned against the kitchen walls. He saved everything. Perez's friend Rhonda Cluley, who lived at the house on Scenic Brook Drive for several months in late , recalls the time she found 10 full cans of antiperspirant while cleaning the kitchen.
She suggested Perez get rid of them, but he refused. An inability to discard anything is a hallmark of OCD, says Watterson, who has been in practice in Austin for nearly 30 years -- treating both sex offenders and obsessive-compulsives, among others -- and who diagnosed Perez with OCD in So it was not unbelievable -- nor uncommon, really -- that Perez's compulsion would also characterize his use of the Internet. Specifically, Perez told the court, he was trying to make a "backup" of all online content -- that is, the manic and absurd ambition to duplicate the entire World Wide Web, initially from Usenet sites.
Although it sounds irrational, indeed impossible, it is not an uncommon mode of thinking for someone suffering from OCD. Watterson said he found Perez's entirely believable. He likens it to a person who obsessively washes his hands. And so it was with Perez's compulsive downloading. He couldn't stand the idea of his computer standing idle all day long while he was out, explains Chris Perri, one of Perez's attorneys.Austin tx cyber sex
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