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United States v. Meisel

United States District Court, District of Kansas

March 24, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
STEVEN J. MEISEL, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. THOMAS MARTEN, CHIEF JUDGE.

Defendant Steven J. Meisel is charged with two counts in the Indictment: distribution of child pornography (18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2)) and possession of child pornography (28 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B)). As it is the eve of trial, this matter is now before the court on the government’s Motion in Limine (Dkt. 27). For the reasons stated below, the government’s motion is granted.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

This case arises from defendant’s alleged distribution and possession of child pornography. The court summarizes the relevant facts as alleged by the government.

On May 9, 2014, the Wichita Police Department conducted an investigation into the sharing of child pornography files on the Ares P2P (peer to peer) file sharing network. An investigator successfully identified a computer sharing and offering 281 files (76 of which were later identified by hash value as a known series of child pornography) under the nickname “uni1.” A query of the identified IP database resolved to Sumner Communications. The police obtained a court order requiring Sumner Communications to reveal subscriber information for the user assigned to the identified IP address during the dates and times of the downloaded session. The user was later identified as Linda Thomas, an individual residing in Wellington, Kansas.

On June 9, 2014, an investigator observed a Mercury sedan with a Kansas license plate belonging to Linda Thomas and defendant Steven Meisel. On June 10, 2014, the investigator obtained a search warrant for the Thomas/Meisel home. The warrant was executed on June 13, 2014. Ms. Thomas was present during the search. Defendant was later located working at a local food bank and returned to the residence with the Wellington Police Department. Defendant subsequently gave written permission for police to search his computer.

Defendant stated that he was the only user of his Compaq computer, which is password protected, and admitted to having the Ares program on his computer. When asked about how the child pornography files got onto his computer, defendant admitted that he could have been looking at these images but, if so, it likely happened during one of his manic phases although, at the time, he could not remember the last time he had an episode. He stated that if there was child pornography on his computer, he was the one responsible, but he did not know how it got there.

Police seized defendant’s computer, along with an external hard drive, cell phone, digital camera, and 27 CD/DVDs. Using forensic methods, the investigators located several hundred file names associated with child pornography on the external hard drive. Defendant was arrested, booked, and placed into the Sumner County Jail.

Further forensic examination of the devices found in defendant’s residence revealed that his computer had the Ares program installed, located under a password protected file, with the “uni1” nickname. The investigation also revealed search terms used within the Ares program that are associated with child pornography, including pthc, hussyfan, kinderficker, kidzilla, kbv, and kdv. Defendant’s computer was found connected to an external hard drive which contained roughly 2, 000 videos and images of child pornography. These images and videos had descriptive file names and had been separated into sub-folders, apparently based on their content. Some of these files had “modified” dates as recent as June 10, 2014, but others dated back days, weeks, months, and years earlier, indicating repeated activity on the external drive.

During an interview with Ms. Thomas, she claimed that she got her own computer approximately two years ago after defendant began using their shared computer so much that she could never use it. Ms. Thomas also stated that she had found two sites of child pornography on the computer she and defendant previously shared and when she confronted defendant, he claimed that it was his son, Wesley Reusch, who was responsible for downloading the images. During his own interview, defendant also alleged that Reusch was responsible for the earlier material.

Defendant further claimed that he was the only person to use his computer for the past year, except for Jeffrey Hunter, a friend and former roommate of defendant’s, as well as Ms. Thomas’ caretaker, who used it one time on Monday, June 9, 2014, which happened to be the Monday before the search warrant. Meisel was clear that he never gave anyone his password because he did not want anyone getting on his computer. Thomas confirmed this during a second interview.

Law enforcement subsequently interviewed Jeffrey Hunter, who confirmed defendant’s general refusal to let anyone use his computer. Jeffrey recalled two instances in which he used defendant’s computer to make purchases from Amazon.com, but did so only in defendant’s presence.

The investigator submitted the images and videos located on defendant’s external hard drive to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children for comparison against its previously identified child victim database. The NCMEC reported a positive hit for a previously identified child victim on at least one image and one video taken from defendant’s external hard drive.

On June 24, 2014, defendant was indicted on one count of distribution of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2) and one count of possession of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B). There are also forfeiture ...


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