Monday, August 06, 2007

State circuit judge throws out evidence garnered in kiddy porn prosecution

From The State:

South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster is telling members of a task force that targets Internet sex predators to continue their work despite a judge's ruling that could put the cases in jeopardy.

Circuit Judge Mark Hayes ruled last month that investigators incorrectly used a federal law to get the identity of a suspect accused of trying to solicit sex from an undercover officer posing as a 13-year-old girl.

McMaster has appealed the ruling but acknowledged that most pending cases would be threatened if the decision stands.

"Frankly, it's a much worse scenario than we originally thought," said McMaster spokesman Mark Plowden. "The consequences of that order being upheld are dire."

The judge's ruling came in the case of 33-year-old former prosecutor Anthony Clark Odom, who was charged with criminal solicitation of a minor after authorities said he used the Internet to try to entice what he thought was a 13-year-old girl to have sex with him.

Hayes ruled the federal law authorities used to get subscriber information from Odom's phone company and Internet provider was not supported by South Carolina law, and he wouldn't allow the information to be used at Odom's trial. Prosecutors said they need the information to link Odom to the online chats.

The federal law only requires a judge to sign a document. Hayes ruled state law requires a higher standard, including probable cause and submitting a sworn oath, to obtain similar evidence.

The task force made its 85th arrest Thursday - 75-year-old Donald Joseph Murphy of North Charleston was charged with one count of criminal solicitation of a minor.

Of the previous arrests, 24 have resulted in guilty pleas and two defendants have been found guilty at trial, Plowden said.

In his letter to the task force, McMaster noted that the use of the federal "d-order" has been upheld by another South Carolina Circuit Court judge.

"No one can guarantee the outcome of an appeal, but I am confident that our d-order process is sound and will continue to utilize it vigorously to prosecute these sexual predators of children," McMaster wrote.

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