By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Finding victims, perpetrators of child porn a challenge
Placeholder Image
The FBI and GBI are seeking information on the identity of a man seen in a child pornography video that was e-mailed unsolicited to three Georgia residents. View isolated images of the suspect.

When retired Stephens County Sheriff’s Investigator Mike Crozier took the witness stand in a federal courtroom in Gainesville last month, it was the eighth time this year he has testified about images of child pornography known collectively as the “RCA Series.”

In 2002, Crozier helped make the case against a Toccoa man who shot videos of a 5-year-old girl being molested. Crozier received his initial tip from authorities in London, England, who in the course of a child pornography investigation found an envelope with a Toccoa return address.

Crozier believes that with the advent of the Internet, the RCA series has become one of the most prevalent collections of child pornography in the world.

“I get called three to five times a week about someone being found with these images,” said Crozier, who has criss-crossed the country to testify to their veracity. “I’ve gotten calls from Japan, Germany, Italy. It’s very sad. As long as the Internet’s out there, it can be downloaded.”

On July 22, jurors in U.S. District Court found former Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputy Scott Pruitt guilty of viewing images from the RCA series. He faces up to 20 years for receiving child pornography.

Meanwhile, last month the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said three people received unsolicited e-mails containing video attachments of child pornography. The GBI has asked for the public’s help in identifying a man seen in the videos and has distributed isolated images of the top of his head, his arm and a hand wearing a distinctive ring.

A federal grand jury in Florida indicted the man as “John Doe No. 8” in September 2006 but he has never been identified.

The hunt for child pornographers and the efforts to rescue their victims involves high-tech cybersleuthing, painstaking hours spent scrutinizing every detail of an image or video, and a certain amount of luck, officials say.

“A lot of these children never get located,” said GBI Special Agent Jeff Brown, who works child exploitation cases as part of the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. “It’s a lot of hard work and a bit of luck in some situations.”

Brown assisted in the investigation of a Walker County man who was charged last year with producing another oft-traded child pornography series that recorded the sexual abuse of a girl from age 5 to age 9.

Brown said a botanist was brought in to identify what type of grass was shown in some videos, narrowing the location to the southeastern United States. Investigators made note of electrical outlets shown in the images to determine what country the video was shot in, and looked for other clues in the background, including paintings on the wall. The accents of people heard speaking on a video can be helpful, he said.

“If there’s not a lot of background and there’s no audio, it makes it that much more difficult to narrow it down,” Brown said. “It could be anywhere in the world.”

Crozier said of the images he studied in the RCA series, one included a “distinct characteristic of the house, and as soon as I walked in the house, I knew we were in the right place.”

At the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, investigators were able to identify the manufacturer of a distinctive bedspread shown in a child pornography video and locate where it was sold in order to find two Indiana children who had been sexually exploited, according to the center’s president and chief executive officer, Ernie Allen. Allen said a girl in another case was rescued by analyzing a T-shirt from a cheerleading camp seen in one photo. A high-profile case was solved two years ago from images showing Walt Disney World in the background, he said.

Allen said the Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Child Recognition and Identification System was created in 2003 following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found “virtual” child pornography is protected by free speech. The ruling meant defendants could argue in court that the images they possessed were created by computers and did not involve real children. To counter that defense, the center is identifying and cataloging the known child victims of sexual exploitation. So far it has identified about 2,500 victims. But the center’s analysts review 200,000 images a week, or 9 million since the beginning of 2008.

“It is a daunting task,” Allen said. “This is needle in a haystack kind of stuff. But as this technique grows, and more and more children are identified, it’s been harder for these guys to get away with it. We’re certainly taking away their defense that these aren’t real kids. The challenge is to work faster.”

Allen said new computer techniques allow investigators to narrow down the date an image was made with a “pretty high degree of accuracy.” In some instances, it may indicate that the image was made recently, and that a child remains in danger.
“We will move mountains to try to identify where that child is,” Allen said.

Regional events