Flick's sentencing comes after a ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court in the case that held that viewing child pornography on websites constitutes possession of child pornography. The Michigan Supreme Court decision in this case potentially affects the prosecution of every child pornography case throughout the State of Michigan.
Steven Flick was the subject of a ICE HSI national investigation dubbed "Operation Falcon," which targeted persons making paid subscriptions to child pornography websites, resulting in some 1,000 arrests nationwide. The case was worked in conjunction with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office and the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office.
After Jackson County Sheriff's Detectives and HSI special agents executed a search warrant at Flick's residence in May 2006, computer forensics revealed 704 images of suspected child pornography on Flick's computer, many of which were located in temporary Internet files. Flick was charged with knowing possession of child sexually abusive material, contrary to Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL), section 750.145c(4).
In 2007, HSI Special Agents provided testimony before the Jackson County Circuit Court about the HSI investigation and computer forensics-testimony describing that when a person goes to a webpage on the Internet, pictures and graphics from the webpage are saved on the user's computer as 'temporary internet files'. The next time the person goes to the same webpage, the computer loads the pictures and graphics previously saved on the computer, making the webpage load faster. An HSI special agent also testified that images found in the temporary Internet files can be accessed and retrieved by the user.
The case was appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court and later affirmed that Flick was in fact in possession of the suspected child pornography images when he viewed them on the internet using his computer, and that the temporary Internet files were evidence of having possessed the images.
Following the Michigan Supreme Court decision, the case was returned to the Jackson County Circuit Court for trial. Flick subsequently pled guilty to the original charge in November, 2010.
This case is part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers.
"Child pornography is the permanent record of the sexual exploitation and abuse of a child and it must be stopped," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Michigan and Ohio. "I applaud the role our special agents and their forensic expertise played in this case, along with the efforts of the Jackson County Sheriff's Office Detectives and the prosecutors involved -all of whom were instrumental in securing this conviction and the related Michigan Supreme Court decision. HSI will continue to work in concert with our local law enforcement partners to protect our communities from those who criminally exploit our children. Simply put, we have an obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves."
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.