Washington, D.C., residents may have heard of a recent sex crimes story that has made headlines across the country. A university professor has been arrested and charged with looking at child pornography while on a flight. What makes this story particularly interesting, however, is how law enforcement officials were notified of the alleged behavior.
When you are sitting on an airplane, it is often difficult to look into the row ahead of you. Even with the armrest down, clearly seeing what the passenger in front of you is watching on his or her laptop is next to impossible. Unfortunately for this professor, it was the testimony of the passenger behind him that led to his arrest and indictment on child pornography charges.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the passenger allegedly saw the explicit pictures as he sat behind the professor. The man then sent either a text message or an email to his son, telling him about the supposed incident. It is unclear if the passenger asked his son to contact local law enforcement or if the son did so of his own accord, but the son called police and Massachusetts state troopers were waiting for the professor when he disembarked from the plane.
In order to be convicted of a crime, prosecutors must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect did what was alleged. To meet this high standard, the government must have considerable evidence to prove a crime. Carelessly indicting a suspect is extremely dangerous for a suspect, especially when police and prosecutors use less-than-credible evidence to charge someone with sex crimes against children. Not only will a suspect be sent to jail to await trial, but he or she will lose the support of the community. He or she may be fired, his or her family may no longer wish to have anything to do with the suspect, or he or she may face outright violence or threats from the public.
Source: The Salt Lake Tribune, "U. prof's child porn probe moves to Utah home, campus office," Bob Mims, Nov. 29, 2011