Patrick Naughton faces retrial

Prosecutors set to retry former Infoseek exec on charges that he crossed state lines to solicit sex with a minor.
Written by Lisa M. Bowman, Contributor
Former Infoseek Corp. executive Patrick Naughton faces a retrial on charges that he traveled across state lines to solicit sex with a minor and used the Internet to set up the meeting.

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors appeared in Los Angeles U.S. District Court before Judge Edward Rafeedie to file for a March 21 retrial. Naughton was convicted of possessing child pornography on Dec. 16. However, the same jury deadlocked on charges that he crossed state lines to solicit sex with a minor and used the Internet to set up the meeting, causing Rafeedie to declare a mistrial on those two charges.

Naughton's child porn conviction still stands for now, although a recent ruling in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on the Child Pornography Prevention Act, or CPPA, has raised questions about its legal standing.

Naughton was caught in a law enforcement sting that involved an FBI decoy, but never an actual minor. He had corresponded with an FBI agent masquerading as a 13-year-old girl in the dad&daughtersex chat room and was arrested on the Santa Monica Pier on Sept. 16, 1999, when he showed up for a meeting.

During the mistrial, Naughton claimed he thought the person he was corresponding with was an adult because so many people role play in chat rooms. Nearly half the jury believed that defense, and the panel was unable to come to a unanimous agreement on the two counts during three days of deliberations. But jurors were convinced that Naughton knew about the child porn found on his computer after his arrest.

However, on Dec. 17 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that parts of the CPPA were overly broad and therefore unconstitutional. The court took issue with wording that makes it a crime to possess digital images or videos of people who "appear" to be minors engaging in sexual acts, even if the participants are youthful-looking adults who appear to be under the age of consent.

That ruling could boost Naughton's attorneys' efforts to get the child porn conviction overturned on a legal technicality because, in reaching a verdict, jurors in the Naughton case may have taken into account part of a law that's since been declared unconstitutional.

A spokesman for the prosecutor's office said attorneys considered many factors when deciding to retry the case, including whether justice would be served and the possible effects the recent CPPA ruling could have on Naughton's child porn conviction.

Naughton remains free on bail.

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