BURLINGTON >> A Wilmington man who was sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2001 for possession of child sexual abuse images was convicted of the same charge following a four-day trial in a federal district court on June 3.
According to a press release from the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont, Donald Ray Boles, 59, of Wilmington, a forensic examination of various computers and hard drives in Boles' possession, conducted by the Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, found approximately 140 images. Boles' computers also contained thousands of images of child sexual abuse, as well as sexually explicit cartoons, anime, and graphic stories. The computers also revealed that Boles communicated over the Internet with other offenders about their shared interest in preschool and toddler girls.
Following the guilty verdict rendered by a jury, Boles was remanded into custody.
According to court records and proceedings, on September 6, 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed a warrant to search Boles' residence for evidence of child pornography. During the search, numerous computers and other digital media were seized. In 1991, U.S. Customs Service agents executed a search warrant of Boles' residence for child pornography. Boles was charged and eventually pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography in United States District Court in Vermont. In June 2001, Judge William Sessions ordered Boles to serve 15 months imprisonment, followed by two years of supervised release.
The FBI's Innocent Images Operations Unit was monitoring a website in 2009 known for hosting a forum that was used to trade images of child sexual abuse. Boles, using an email address later determined to belong to him, was identified by the FBI, accessed a decoy website established by the FBI to trap users of illegal images.
"Further investigation confirmed that Mr. Boles lived at the address associated with the eBay account, that the address was the same address he lived at prior to his 2000 conviction when his house was searched the first time, that Mr. Boles was registered on the Vermont Sex Offender Registry ..." stated court documents.
A special agent applied for a search warrant, which was served on Boles' home on Sept. 6, 2011. He was indicted on one count of possession of child pornography on Jule, 15, 2014.
Prior to his trial, attorneys for Boles moved to suppress the evidence seized in his home in September 2011. He argued that the warrant failed to establish probable cause, the information in the warrant was stale, the good faith exception does not apply, and the seized evidence exceeded the scope of the warrant.
"The Court is not persuaded by any of these arguments," responded Sessions in April 2015. "Accordingly, the motion is denied."
Boles contended his prior conviction, nor his "legal" activities online did not support the issuance of a search warrant. But Sessions noted approval of a search warrant doesn't require proof of criminal activity, only the probability of criminal activity.
"In Martin the majority of the panel concluded it was 'common sense' that an individual who joins a site that had trading child pornography as its essential purpose would more than likely download and possess such material," wrote Sessions. "Mr. Boles is alleged to have actually accessed a membership website with the principal purpose of sharing child pornography and erotica. (The special agent's) affidavit suggests members of the forum joined intentionally because it was password-protected. The user here, however, was more than simply a passive member. ... Mr. Boles allegedly posted suggestive pictures and comments describing his sexual interest in children and sexual images of children."
In addition, noted Sessions, "someone with access to the Hotmail email address intentionally accessed the FBI's undercover site that advertised sharing child pornography as its central purpose by entering the unique password. That the user did not ultimately try to download the purported child pornography videos does not diminish the fact that he responded to the email in the first place."
The judge also took into account the fact that Boles had previously been convicted of the possession of "a collection of illegal images over the span of several years. ... Putting the evidence described above together, the Court concludes that the totality of the circumstances described in the warrant raised a fair probability that child pornography would be found in Mr. Boles's home. Therefore the warrant was supported by probable cause."
A sentencing date for Boles has not yet been set.
Following the jury verdict, United States Attorney Eric S. Miller commended the efforts of the FBI, the Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and the New York State Police, in the investigation and prosecution of Boles, which was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Barbara A. Masterson and Abagail E. Averbach. Boles was represented by Assistant Federal Defenders Steven L. Barth and Elizabeth K. Quinn.
Miller noted that this prosecution is part of the U.S. Department of Justice's Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorney's Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims.
For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext 160.