One of the hot-topic defendants in the Playpen case, David Tippens, managed to walk out of the courtroom on June 13 with only a six month prison sentence. Tippens, like many of the suspects caught in the FBI’s Operation Pacifier dragnet, was charged with receipt of child pornography, possession of child pornography, and transport of child pornography. When compared to the prosecution’s recent request for several years or the sentencing guidelines for child pornography, six months is undeniably low.
Tippens and his defense counsel, Colin Fieman, fought the case like no other. Save, possibly, for some of the other defendants represented by Fieman and the nationwide network of lawyers armed with the “government hacking” manual for attorneys. As the FBI’s case developed and simultaneously unraveled, we reported the major happenings. One of which was the suppression of the FBI’s evidence gathered as a result of the controversial NIT use.
Given the way the situation unfolded, the dismissal of the evidence itself was not that unusual. Fieman had proven his talent and persistence in fighting the prosecution and FBI. The FBI came off as the criminal element in many courtrooms. Judges across the country dismissed the evidence and voiced their disapproval of the FBI’s tactics.
As a result, the presiding judge only convicted Tippens of child pornography possession. The other charges, receipt and transportation, both got dropped as if no evidence existed to prove his guilt. And legally there was none. But the prosecution still wanted Tippens to serve a significant amount of time for child pornography possession.
In the Sentencing Memorandum, the government asked for four years from Tippens and the prosecution showed their distaste for the man. “By his own admission, he spent years searching for and collecting images and videos of children being raped and tortured so he could gratify his sexual desire,” they explained. And continued, “his conduct is reprehensible, and his untreated sexual deviancy makes him a danger.”
When Ars Technica asked Fieman why his client received such a light sentence, Fieman responded:
“The Government asked for 48 months in prison but the Court was impressed with Mr. Tippens’ long and distinguished service in the Army, including combat duty in Iraq; his cooperation with the police at the time of his arrest and perfect compliance with pre-trial supervision; and the fact that he had a pornography addiction related to PTSD that would be addressed through continuing counseling.”
Tippens’s reprehensible conduct and “untreated sexual deviancy” ultimately weighed less than “his long and distinguished service in the Army.” The future may change the situation even more; Fieman will be appealing the possession of child pornography conviction. In the meantime, Tippens is free on bail.
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