[UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM 11/2/2017]
Alright. I want to talk about something today, and before I do we need to be really clear:
I’m not defending pedophiles.
I’m not defending pedophiles.
I am not defending pedophiles.
I want that to be really clear, because I’m putting on my lawyer hat to discuss a bit about the R.C. Fox scenario that’s a-brewing on the western side of this lovely Commonwealth. I’m doing this to clear up what seem to be some pretty widely held misconceptions and misrepresentations of the known facts in relation to this. This is pure commentary, coming from someone with a working familiarity with the system and the ability to dispel a few of the misconceptions right off the bat.
And frankly, I’m about to piss some of you off. Because, goddammit, guilty or innocent, every accused person deserves a defense. That’s why I do what I fucking do.
So…let’s jump into this and go with a few of the questions and statements that have jiggled around the internet over the past couple weeks, confronting them head-on in a blog post that’s sure to ignite the glorious goddamn flames of my own demise.
But first, some background.
FACTS – What do we actually know?
Here’s what’s actually known, guys:
There’s a guy out there named Carl R. Kirkwood. He’s 33 years old, and he lives in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Prior to August 31, 2017, his entire criminal record consisted of low-grade traffic offenses. He has no significant criminal history, period. Lot of plea downs to “Obedience to Traffic-Control-Devices,” which in my experience is a speeding ticket that the officer has knocked down to a no-points offense. Outside of that? Some parking tickets, some California stops, and an actual speeding ticket. Nothing that indicates any horrible criminal past.
This is all drawn from the court summary sheet publicly available on the PA Unified Justice System’s website, which all of you know because you’ve been told that. However, I want to take a second and correct one statement: There has been an implication that this information was all “buried” somewhere. It wasn’t. The docket site is old and you have to know how to operate that shit. I do it daily. It took me less than 30 seconds to get this information. There’s no conspiracy or shit, slow your roll.
Back in 2015, the local police in Aliquippa, PA began investigating Kirkwood after a “sexual video depicting an 8-year-old child” was traced to his computer. This can mean a lot of shit. Did you know law enforcement will, after seizing child porn servers, leave them active for a bit with tracking information in a file specifically to catch these rings? No problem with that, good deal. It could also mean it was sent to him via email, dropbox, torrent, or uploaded from his computer through a file sharing site. Frankly, we don’t know the method of how it got there, just that it got there.
In January of 2016, the police went to his home and spoke to him. There’s no indication there was a warrant, indicated by the fact that they conducted the interview outside of his house. They don’t tend to interview you outside, in Pennsylvania, in January if they have a right to be inside the home. So whatever they had from the investigation at that point wasn’t enough to take to a judge to have a search warrant issued for his home.
Here’s where shit gets tricky.
The news report that a lot of people are pulling numbers from says, and I quote “he admitted there ‘might be some’ child pornography on his computer . . . [and] Kirkwood told police he has a ‘very small interest’ in pornography depicting children and admitted to having 50 videos containing it on his computer.”
Seems straightforward. They tracked him down, seized his devices, and he admitted to it, right? Why are we having this discussion?
…Because I don’t think you guys really understand what we have here, and someone needs to say it.
HE ADMITTED TO IT, IT’S RIGHT THERE IN THE ARTICLE.
First, what the article is likely referencing is a police report. That’s…also probably what those quotes are: quotes from the police report and not from Kirkwood himself. There’s a better-than-average chance that the police report states, verbatim, “Suspect stated there might be some images of this nature on his computer” and then “Suspect said he has only a very small interest in such images.” So what we’re likely reading in this piece is the newspapers summarization of a police report, which quotes the officer but not Kirkwood himself, and any halfway decent criminal defense attorney will tell you that you should never take the police version of events at face value.
That’s how a statement like “I’m not really interested in child porn” gets turned into “Suspect has a very small interest in child porn.” Or how a statement like “I guess there could be some of that stuff on my computer in like a zip file I downloaded or something” in response to a question about how he KNOWS the computer is porn free turns into “suspect admits there might be some child porn” on the computer.
This is what the police do, guys. Seriously. The police report alone is never enough to judge the accuracy of the information it provides. This is why they’re hearsay, inadmissible unless there’s an exception to the hearsay rule that applies.
HE ADMITTED TO HAVING 50 VIDEOS SHOWING IT.
But he’s only charged for one.
Under 18 PaCS 6312(d), the section for possession of child pornography, every individual image is a separate charge. That means that if there are 50 images on that computer, we can expect to see 50 charges. Prosecutors aren’t well-known for “undercharging” shit.
But maybe there are more. Who knows. What I can say, though, is there were “one or more” images that support a child pornography charge on his computer, but I doubt there were 50. We’d see more possession charges, just as backups to the dissemination charges.
So all you can definitively say is the prosecution found one image that it believes supports the charge for possession of child pornography. Anything above that is speculation at this point, and it’s especially more speculative because we’re getting information only from a newspaper article that’s quoting a police report that may be accurately depicting what he said to the officers. Nobody’s seen the report except this reporter. Stop acting like the police version of events is holy writ.
WHAT ABOUT THOSE OTHER 20 CHARGES THERE?
You mean the 18 PaCS 6312(c) charges? The dissemination ones? Let’s take a look at the statute for this, okay?
“Any person who knowingly sells, distributes, delivers, disseminates, transfers, displays or exhibits to others, or who possesses for the purpose of sale, distribution, delivery, dissemination, transfer, display or exhibition to others, any book, magazine, pamphlet, slide, photograph, film, videotape, computer depiction or other material depicting a child under the age of 18 years engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such act commits an offense.”
Cool. Let me break that out of legalese:
These are likely 20 instances of the download or upload of a file, or emailing of it, or the like. Maybe the downloading and uploading of a zip file with one image in it that breaks the law, or maybe 20 separate images. However, they are not 20 charges of possession. Like possession, each separate instance of the upload, download, or transmission of an offending image, even as part of a larger file containing non-offending images, is a separate charge.
Definitively, all we know is that on at least 20 occasions there was some form of transmission of at least one offending image under the statute, or enough evidence of such transmissions that the DA decided to charge. Outside of that? We don’t know. We don’t know if it was 20 separate images or videos or one transmitted 20 times, how it was transmitted, and whether it was actively transmitted. There’s not enough information from a docket sheet to determine this.
Additionally, you’ll note there aren’t 20 possession charges. Look, if you have enough to charge dissemination individually, you likely have enough to charge possession individually. Here the DA chose not to. The indication to me is there aren’t 50 images or videos that break the law there.
WHY WOULD HE SAY ANYTHING LIKE THAT THEN?
Have you ever sat through an interrogation or questioning? If not, let me tell you they don’t say “Hey, do you have videos of kids getting fucked on your computer?” They say “do you have any art that may show someone under 18?” or something along those lines. People clam up when they hear “child porn.” They don’t when they hear “art.”
WHY ARE YOU MAKING THAT DISTINCTION?
Because cub porn.
Alright, so the law in PA is that for something to fall afoul of 18 PaCS 6312, it has to be a real image of a real human child. Not drawings, not computer animations, nothing like that. We determined that in Commonwealth v. Davidson, 2004 Pa. Super. 396 (2004). It has to be an image of a real child, not an imaginary creation, in Pennsylvania to draw a child porn charge. But, as looking at fucking Twitter has confirmed, there is a spirited debate about this in the furry community, which Mr. Kirkwood was a part of. Some people consider it to be as bad as child porn, some do not, but either way there is a question about it, right?
Keep that in mind.
Now, let me ask you, if you were asked “do you have any erotic art that may depict someone under 18?” and you knew, for a fact, that you had cub porn on the computer, what would your answer be?
If you said “I may have about 50 images of that, but it’s not really my thing,” then…well…
BUT THEY FOUND AT LEAST ONE.
They allegedly found at least one image depicting a real person who they believe is below the age of 18, yep.
But it could have been one image or video in a zip file containing 100’s of images or videos. Buried in there. Being uploaded as a zip multiple times as a “cub porn” collection without Kirkwood ever knowing it existed.
In which case, Kirkwood viewed porn that many of us, including myself, may find distasteful, like cub porn, but not necessarily illegal. Somewhere in there, maybe known or unknown to him, was real porn. And he just didn’t know.
By the way, yeah, that’s an actual defense to this charge. “I didn’t know it was there.”
Not an easy one to make, but definitely one you can make.
SO NOW YOU’RE DEFENDING HIM.
Now I’m pointing out that there’s this huge fucking thing going on based off of a second-hand news report that was drafted relying on hearsay and a vague docket sheet that even someone intimately familiar with the law can’t decipher to state the facts with any degree of certainty. And that’s a problem, because you assholes are running around waving a docket sheet and a newspaper article like it’s holy fucking writ and absolute proof this guy is a pedophile and a criminal. It’s not. It’s a list of charges that indicate what the state thinks it can prove and a newspaper article.
When did folks become so goddamn trusting of the police again?
Fact is, this is why I’ve been saying “Let the court do its job.” Nobody fucking knows enough yet to know what happened, what the facts are, or what he can be convicted of, if anything. You’re making snap judgments and convicting this guy without any actual fucking proof having been presented, even when all you really have to do is wait a little bit to find out what can be proven or not.
I AM NOT BUDDYING UP TO AN ACCUSED PEDOPHILE, BOOZY.
You don’t have to. I’m not either. And I agree, distancing yourself from him while this is pending and before the facts are known is a good thing. I’ve had this conversation with con chairs and said “You can’t ignore it, but you should definitely take precautions until this matter is resolved.” I agree with conventions and such being proactive in this matter, because if the charges are proven they are extremely fucking serious.
But Jesus fuck, could you guys not go all Judge Dredd on him right off the fucking bat and with nothing more than a list of charges and a news article that’s likely drawn from hearsay?
The man’s life is over no matter what. You don’t come back from these charges. Socially, and likely privately, Carl R. Kirkwood, known to the furries as R.C. Fox, is done. He’ll never shake the stigma of the charge or accusation, never escape the whispers at conventions or the distaste people feel, and never escape the burden of merely being charged even if he’s acquitted. Especially not now, with all of you losing your goddamn minds on the internet and passing judgment before the Commonwealth has even introduced the first piece of evidence to the jury.
And that, motherfuckers, is why I kept asking you to cool it on the snap judgments, let conventions take precautions, and let the courts do their job.
Because now, even if this guy is found not guilty in a court of law, he’ll always be guilty to a huge number of people that may not have ever met him, and expelled from a fandom.
You’ve convicted him without a fucking trial.
And frankly, while I’m disgusted at the alleged charges and Mr. Kirkwood’s actions, if proven, and fully support allowing the courts to punish him for them…I’m disgusted that everyone here has determined they have the right to convict on a bare allegation and provide him with a social death sentence without even the opportunity to present a defense.
11/2/2017 – Update
Yesterday, November 1, 2017, Mr. Kirkwood made his first court appearance at a preliminary hearing. A preliminary hearing is before a magistrate judge, and is solely for the prosecution to present some evidence of the charges. The idea is if the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to convince a magistrate the charges could be proven at trial, it cannot proceed.
In reality, it’s a formality. Cases are rarely dismissed at this stage and there is no right to present a defense.
The matter has been held over to the Court of Common Pleas, Pennsylvania’s trial courts. Additionally, the DA has amended the charges. It is now 1 count of dissemination, 20 counts of possession of child pornography, and 1 count of unlawful use of a telecommunications device. This alone changes the assessment, as we can say the DA has 20 images, at least, which it believes are sufficient to support possession of child pornography charges.
Mr. Kirkwood is set to be formally arraigned, where he will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, on December 5, 2017 in the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County. The “first” trial date (the absolute earliest a trial will be held) is March 6, 2017. Chances are this will be pushed back at least once.
Mr. Kirkwood still enjoys the presumption of innocence until his trial.