Possession or creation of child porn? Additional charges delayed for West Catholic student

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Is taking a screen shot of a child pornographic images and saving it onto a computer, the same as manufacturing it?

It's a question at the center of an already high-profile case involving a West Catholic honor student accused of threatening  his classmates online with a school shooting spree.

Matthew Herrington, 17, is headed to trial on charges of making false threats of terrorism but the teen is also facing potential child pornography related charges after police uncovered images on his computer while investigating the threats.

While a Kent County judge Thursday deemed there to be enough  evidence to proceed with a trial on the false terrorism charges, she said it will still have to be determined whether Herrington was solely in possession of child sexually abusive material or whether he also created it too.

“Saving it onto your computer does not implicate the making as (the prosecutor) is trying to argue, it completely excludes it," said Herrington's defense attorney, Anthony Greene.

Greene said the distinction is a serious one, point out manufacturing child porn carries a 20 year felony punishment whereas possession or distribution carries between a four and seven year felony statute.

Kent County Assistant Prosecution Gregory Boer argued in court Thursday the definition of the statute says otherwise.

“If you look at the definition of ‘make’ … the first sentence says make means to bring into existence by copying, shaping, changing or combining material and specifically includes but is not limited to intentionally creating a reproduction or copying," he  said.

Investigators said three images of child sexually abusive material were found Herrington's laptop. Two appeared to have  been downloaded from the web while a third is what investigators determined to be a screenshot of another picture.

The potential criminal sexual conduct charges could come in addition to what Herrington already faces as he heads to trial on  two felony charges of making false threats of terrorism.

Investigators said in court the teen admitted to making the threats on social media back in February. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

“He indicated that he never intended to follow through with any threats but he was hoping to spark some fear and he felt powerful by doing it," said Det. Richard Lewis with the Grand Rapids Police Department. "(He) was looking forward to going back to school and sitting back to gauge the responses of the students.”

Experts also testified Thursday they found evidence Herrington had searched the internet for images of Columbine.

Greene attempted to have his client's $100,000 bond reduced, but was denied. The judge said a final decision on criminal sexual conduct charges will be made by next week.

“Two 20 year felony offenses is a very, very, very long stretch by the prosecution to elevate anybody who has any photo on a computer, that’s not what the legislature intended," Greene said.

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2 comments

  • Polish Princess

    Why don’t you tell us exactly what those photos were? Were they pix of teens or small children being forced into sex acts? The term “child pornography” leads us to believe it’s the latter when my guess is that the pix are actually of the former.