Court Affirms State's Authority To Fight Child Pornography

Attorney General Spitzer today hailed an appellate court ruling that affirms his office’s authority to investigate and prosecute child pornography cases.

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Rochester unanimously upheld a lower court finding that the Attorney General has jurisdiction to investigate a Western New York Internet service provider that hosts an internet news group which displays images of children engaged in sexual acts with adults.

"This decision clearly states that when requested by an agency such as the state police, our office has broad investigative and prosecutorial powers to look into possible criminal conduct," Spitzer said. "It means that our collaborative efforts with the state police to dismantle major child pornography operations will continue and expand."

The case stems from an 1998 investigation by the New York State Police. At that time, investigators seized equipment from Buffnet, the commercial name of Marketing and Advertising Service Center of West Seneca. Police were looking into the activities of a group of pornographers posing as a virtual college called Pedo(phile) University.

Upon a referral from the State Police, the Attorney General’s office investigated and the Grand Jury issued subpoenas for Buffnet’s corporate records, and sought to question eight employees.

The company moved to quash the subpoenas examining how child pornography is distributed throughout the state via the Internet.

In court, Buffnet claimed that the Attorney General lacked the authority to conduct a grand jury investigation and to issue subpoenas because the referral from the State Police exceeded the parameters of the law and the State Police Superintendent’s authority to refer cases for prosecution.

The Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department decision issued on May 10, rejected the contention. The court ruled that the State’s Executive Law specifically authorizes the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute referrals from the head of any state agency including the Superintendent of the NewYork State Police.