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Allen v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

May 18, 2016



          David Dunagin, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Christian Harris, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          ROBERT J. GLADWIN, Chief Judge

         Thomas Fletcher Allen was convicted in the White County Circuit Court on thirty counts of possessing child pornography and three counts of computer exploitation of a child. His sole argument on appeal is that the State failed to present sufficient evidence to support his conviction. We affirm.

         I. Statement of Facts

         On March 25, 2014, Allen was charged by felony information with thirty counts of distributing, possessing, or viewing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child, in violation of Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-27-602 (Repl. 2013), and three counts of second-degree computer exploitation of a child, in violation of section 5-27-605 (Repl. 2013). At a jury trial on those charges held December 9, 2014, Chad Meli, a special agent for the Arkansas Attorney General's Office, testified that he specialized in computer-related investigations and that he was given information about Allen's computer IP address.

         Meli was able to connect to Allen's computer from a remote location and download a shared folder from that particular IP address. Meli conducted five downloads between October 31, 2013, and November 17, 2013. The downloaded files contained depictions of children being sexually assaulted. Meli testified regarding the specific contents of the downloaded files, and he explained that, from his remote connection, he discovered the IP address belonged to Allen, whose physical address was in Beebe. After Allen's identity had been discovered and his address had been located, surveillance was conducted on his residence.

         A search warrant was issued, and it was executed on Allen's apartment on December 19, 2013. Meli testified that Allen was the sole occupant of the apartment and answered the door to police. Meli also stated that he never saw anyone other than Allen come and go from the apartment during the surveillance. He said that there was no evidence that anyone other than Allen lived at the apartment. Meli described the circumstances regarding the search as follows:

We identify ourselves, who we work with. We secure the person, cleared the apartment. I go back out and make a bit more detail with Mr. Allen. I told him I had a search warrant for the residence and to look for computer evidence related to a cyber-crimes investigation. It was at that time when I was explaining that to him, going through my normal speech, where he leans over quickly to his right where there's a laptop computer and grabs some cables out of the computer. It appeared to be a USB. To prevent him from destroying evidence I grabbed him by the arm and his shirt, took him to the ground and secured him.[1]

         Pursuant to the warrant, police found evidence that included a Toshiba laptop computer, a Western Digital external hard drive-which was the device from which Allen removed the cables at the time of his arrest-a desktop personal computer, an Hitachi hard drive, and an ACER laptop computer. The items seized were taken to the forensic lab. There, technicians discovered three of the pictures recovered from one device had been manufactured by "taking the face of a child known to the suspect and then placing that face on the body of another image, an illegal sexual image of a child." Meli's investigation led him to discover that the child known to Allen was his granddaughter, and Allen's daughter verified that information.

         Allen's daughter also testified that she was not aware of anyone else living with her father. However, she stated that a man named Steve, who had passed away shortly after "all this" began, had stayed "in and out" of her father's apartment. She said that she was not aware of anyone besides Steve who had access to her father's apartment.

         Chris Cone, a special agent with the Arkansas Attorney General's Office, testified that he was involved in executing the search warrant on Allen's apartment and that no one else was at home at the time and there was no evidence that anyone else was living there. He said that he conducted on-site previews of the evidence found, which included the Toshiba laptop computer, the Western Digital external hard drive, and the Hitachi hard drive. He said that the Hitachi and Toshiba were found to contain a number of still images and videos depicting child sexual exploitation.

         Jeff Shackelford, another special agent with the attorney general's office, testified that he prepared a report with the findings on the evidence gathered pursuant to the search warrant. His report covered well over fifty gigabytes of actual evidentiary data discovered on the computers and hard drives. He found that the Western Digital hard drive was encrypted, but he was able to decode the passwords. He testified that he had found hidden folders on the devices containing child pornography. He said that there was an excessive number of files and videos that he found hidden, totaling 52.9 gigabytes of data. His testimony was that there were well over 1000 files of a graphic nature, and of those, hundreds were ...

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