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In Texas, Your Open WiFi is No Defense

An Austin, TX man was recently convicted of child pornography, simply because he was “the most likely” suspect, despite the household sharing an unencrypted hotspot, and all activity taking place using accounts apparently belonging to his roommate. Authorities searched only one room, and decided they had their man when they found some unspecified “child porn” there. Problem was, they didn’t bother searching anywhere else, and decided to move forward with prosecution based on what they had.

This is typical of police in the USA where they cut corners by placing all the blame on the first likely suspect as soon as they find him, in order to create the impression to the public that they bring quick results. They will halt the investigation while they try to coerce a confession, or force the suspect to plea-bargain by piling on ridiculous charges, which they agree to drop if he cooperates. In the meantime, real criminals have time to cover their tracks, and may even be contacted by the authorities who make them agree to remain silent, “in the interests of justice”.

Since the authorities cleverly stopped when they had *just enough* evidence, they can maintain plausible deniability where there is overwhelming, undiscovered evidence to the contrary. Any questions about the quality of their investigation are met with dangerously aggressive indignation; after all, the authorities should always be trusted, since, you know, they get really indignant… Never mind that the evidence was cherry-picked, and obtained improperly. The judge decided to allow it, since to do otherwise would mean to disappoint the police, and lose them a conviction.

Read the ARSTECHNICA report on this case here.

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