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United States v. Smith

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
739 F.3d 843 (2014)


The federal government (plaintiff) prosecuted James William Smith (defendant) for knowing possession of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B). The trial evidence established that Smith owned a computer to which his roommates Elizabeth Penix and Joshua Jolly also had access. The computer contained 26 pornographic files, 19 of which had been previewed before they were downloaded. Computer experts testified that the downloading must have been intentional. The files' labels contained the words "child," "pre-teen," or the ages of their subjects. It would be clear to anyone who read the file names or previewed the files that they related to children engaged in sexual activity. Employment records eliminated Penix as a suspect. Jolly denied any knowledge of the files or the downloading software. However, no special knowledge was required for downloading the files. Smith did not testify, but Penix and Smith's parents testified that Smith was at the parents' house and therefore had no access to his computer on the dates in question. The jury convicted Smith, but the judge granted Smith's Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 motion to enter a judgment of acquittal, on the basis that it was just as likely that Jolly, rather than Smith, downloaded the files. The government appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Benavides, J.)

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