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Target of spy probe asks for new trial in child porn case

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Keith Gartenlaub is seen at his home in Lake Elsinore, Calif. on March 24. FBI agents investigating a potential data leak at Boeing obtained a secret warrant to search the home computers of Gartenlaub, a company manager in California, for evidence they hoped would connect him to Chinese economic espionage.

LOS ANGELES » A Boeing manager convicted of possessing child pornography uncovered during an unrelated investigation into Chinese espionage is asking a judge to throw out the guilty verdict and grant him a new trial.

The judge, Christina Snyder, is expected to rule Monday on Keith Gartenlaub’s request. If she declines, she’s expected to sentence him on the child pornography charges. Prosecutors are asking that he get 10 years in prison.

Gartenlaub, 47, said there’s no evidence he was aware of the child pornography or had ever accessed the images found on his computer. He also argues that the warrant to search his computers was based on false allegations of a crime for which he’s never been charged — espionage.

Snyder has previously ruled that the warrant was lawfully issued and the evidence properly gathered.

FBI agents say they found the child pornography images on Gartenlaub’s computer two years ago as they were investigating a potential data leak at Boeing. As part of that probe, they obtained a secret warrant from the nation’s secretive intelligence court to search Gartenlaub’s home.

Gartenlaub has been unable to obtain any information the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court relied on to issue the warrant.

Courts have consistently found that disclosing material involving the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court could expose sensitive intelligence secrets. In Gartenlaub’s case, then-Attorney General Eric Holder advised against disclosure.

Gartenlaub was convicted of three federal child pornography charges in December.

In an interview with The Associated Press earlier this month, Gartenlaub said he has a right to know and fight the government arguments that were used to obtain the warrant.

“You can’t base a search on lies,” he said.

In a statement earlier this month, the Justice Department said that “when law enforcement lawfully obtains evidence of a serious crime, in this case a crime against children, we will pursue further investigation of that crime.”

In its search of Gartenlaub’s home, the FBI says it found videos on multiple hard drives and evidence that Gartenlaub maintained a “carefully curated and organized collection” that was copied multiple times.

Jeff Fischbach, a forensic examiner who reviewed the evidence for the defense, said there was no evidence the videos were ever opened or accessed in the years since being downloaded and that other computer users may well have been responsible for the files.

“Either I’m this spy-slash-child pornographer, or I’m one of them, or I’m none of them,” Gartenlaub said. “I’m telling you, I’m none of them.”

In a recent filing, prosecutors wrote that Gartenlaub “continues to deny any personal responsibility for his crimes of conviction.”

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  • Possession of child pornography should remain a serious crime, but Gartenlaub should be granted the right to fully face his accusers so to speak. It’s uncomfortable in a so-called free society to countenance fishing expeditions enabled by secret warrants issued by equally secret courts.

    • It’s not out of the realm of possibility that someone else put the illegal stuff on the computer then caused the search by making the false spy allegations. Let’s say your tenant stashes cocaine in your house then a plumber finds it doing work you hire. Whose cocaine is it? There seems to be enough reasonable doubt here. Is this a married man with a family. Which sex is the porno? Something is not right, it seems.

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