Framed for Child Porn
Inspired by the Story of Ned Solon
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Montpelier man charged in Internet child porn scam
Times Argus

Montpelier man charged in Internet child porn scam

By Thatcher Moats
Times Argus Staff
Article published Jan 23, 2010

BARRE (Vermont) – In an apparent act of revenge, a Montpelier man is accused of posting child pornography on the Internet with two other people's identities attached in order to make it appear they were disseminating child pornography.

One of the targets was a Democratic state representative from Chittenden County.

The online activity, which was investigated starting last September, led prosecutors to file a felony charge of possession of child pornography Thursday against the suspected Internet scammer, 44-year-old David Goldstein.

The threat of innocent people being "framed" using child pornography is a topic computer experts and law enforcement authorities have been considering in recent months.

The conclusion of authorities in Vermont is that with computer forensics, and more old-fashioned police work, police can reliably determine when someone has been framed or when a guilty person's claims of innocence are lies.

The case involving Goldstein seems to prove that conclusion, though his alleged tactics were unsophisticated and led police to his door.

The investigation started with tips from out-of-state, court papers show. A Virginia investigator called police in Vermont about possible child pornography trafficking by Timothy Jerman, a state representative from Essex, and Dr. Stuart Graves, who works for Washington County Mental Health.

Jerman's and Graves' names were attached to Internet postings that had links to sexual pictures of underage children, some of which appeared to be on a Russian child pornography Web site, court papers show.

But police quickly determined that the two men were not suspects and began to try and figure out who had posted the links.

Police viewed the profile for the person who had posted the pornography and found the e-mail address "," according to court documents.

Police said they searched the Internet for that e-mail address and found a posting advertising "kittens for sale" that had "" attached to it. Also in that posting was a Montpelier telephone number, which police traced to Goldstein. They soon found his home address in Montpelier, court papers show.

After subpoenaing Internet records from Fairpoint Communciations – which was complicated by "an internal hardware problem" at Fairpoint – police confronted Goldstein in his River Street apartment, records show.

It turns out, according to the police affidavit, that Goldstein is someone with "various mental health issues." Goldstein has been involuntarily hospitalized, Graves told police.

Rep. Jerman's connection to Goldstein was indirect; his wife, Ann Jerman, is the head of nursing at the Vermont State Hospital, where Goldstein has previously been admitted, according to court papers.

Goldstein told police he was frustrated and feels like a "piece of property of the mental health system," the affidavit says.

He said he targeted Jerman because he had a higher profile than his wife, and he said he chose child porn for the "shock" factor, according to court papers.

Jerman, a 60-year-old third-term representative, was at the Statehouse on Friday, working on a vehicle idling bill.

He didn't seem worried that the information Goldstein allegedly posted could be on the Internet for years to come or forever.

"I had never heard of (Goldstein), so it didn't affect me terribly," he said, joking that an opponent could use the information against him in the next election.

Barb Masterson is an Assistant U.S. Attorney and the coordinator of Project Safe Childhood in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Burlington.

She said that late last year she looked into the issue of people being framed using child porn.

Her inquiry revolved around theoretical scenarios of a hacker or computer virus planting porn on someone's computer, a more technical and sophisticated procedure than what Goldstein allegedly did.

Masterson concluded that hacking into someone's computer to plant child pornography is technically possible but incredibly unlikely.

"Anything is possible on the Internet," said Masterson. "But the likelihood of having someone plant child pornography is extremely rare, if it has ever happened at all."

Even if child porn was planted, authorities said, they would be able to figure that out.

"To the extent that any person claims any child pornography has been planted as a possible defense, a sophisticated forensic analysis is going to be able to dispute that immediately," said Masterson.

Child porn suspects often claim that a virus or a spam e-mail planted the illegal file on their computer, said Lt. Kris Carlson, who works at the Burlington Police Department, and is in charge of the Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Investigators have a term for this defense.

"That's what we call in industry the 'some-other-dude-did-it defense,'" said Carlson. "That's common."

But Carlson agreed that investigators can adequately figure out who's lying and who's telling the truth.

"Some cases are quicker, some take a little more time and digging, but generally we're able to figure it out," he said.

Goldstein's alleged technique did not involve planting explicit photos on the targets' computers; he allegedly put explicit photos on a social networking Web site with two men's names attached.

That technique is extremely common, though it's rare that child porn is used as the damning information, said Carlson.

Carlson said it happens a lot with teens bullying teens or spouses going through a bad divorce. Much of it doesn't rise to the level of criminal activity, said Carlson.

"What we are finding is that people create sites and pages purporting to be somebody they're not quite a bit," Carlson said.

Goldstein pleaded innocent to the charge this week in Vermont District Court in Barre and was released on conditions. Reached by telephone, Goldstein declined to comment.


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