ShareThis Page
News

Judge tosses out primary evidence in child pornography case

| Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2005, 12:00 p.m.

A Carnegie man who said he was being prosecuted for trying to help police nab sexual predators online scored a victory in court Tuesday when a judge tossed out the primary evidence against him.

A state police search of Ty Grabowski's computer was improper because it was based on outdated information, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lawrence J. O'Toole ruled. The 34 deleted images of child pornography state police said they found on Grabowski's computer, therefore, could not be used in court.

"It's pretty much over at this point," said Grabowski's defense attorney, P. Christopher Hoffman.

The district attorney's office has 30 days to appeal O'Toole's ruling or drop the 34 counts of possession of child pornography it filed against Grabowski in April 2002.

Grabowski, 37, said last month that he was on a personal crusade to track down child porn and predators on the Internet and report them to police. According to state police Trooper John LaRoche, Grabowski reported more than 50 cases of suspected Internet child porn to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Grabowski said he also reported cases to other law enforcement agencies.

In June 2001, Grabowski called LaRoche to report that, while posing as a 12-year-old girl in an Internet chat room, a man had propositioned him to meet and have sex. LaRoche arrested that man, although the charges were later dropped by a judge.

In November, LaRoche served a search warrant on Grabowski's computer. In his affidavit for the warrant, LaRoche wrote that the computer would "most likely contain images of child pornography," given Grabowski's frequent reporting to police.

Hoffman argued that the warrant was too vague and that the information in it was "stale" because so much time had passed since Grabowski's call. O'Toole apparently agreed.

"Basically, (LaRoche) was acting on a hunch," Hoffman said. "The hunch was right, but not legal."

O'Toole did not rule on a constitutional issue Hoffman raised, in which he questioned whether child pornography laws should apply to those trying to help police.

State law allows people to possess child porn only for "bona fide educational, scientific, governmental or judicial" purposes. Grabowski is not a police officer.

"Given the unwieldy nature of the Internet and the fact that it's so hard to police because it's so vast, do you want to allow citizens to help law enforcement or completely bar them from it?" Hoffman said. "It's a very interesting issue that the courts may have to address at some point."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me