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18-year-old arrested on child pornography charges

Internet facilitates uncommonly young promoters of child pornography.

Feb. 26, 2009

A Columbia resident was arrested Friday evening on suspicion of possession and promotion of child pornography.

Eric Hall, 18, of 1912 Forum Blvd., was charged with two counts of possession of child pornography and one count of first-degree promotion of child pornography, according to the Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force.

The investigation began in April 2008 when task force received information that a local residence was offering previously identified child pornography through file sharing programs called LimeWire.

Task force investigators were unable to determine the exact location of the computer equipment being used to offer these files until October 2008, the news release stated.

Task force detective Andy Anderson said they issued a court ordered search warrant to his residence.

"Hall knew we were looking for him for some time and he was not surprised by the warrant," Anderson said.

Several computers were seized during the search.

When the examination of these computers was complete, 86 videos and 166 photographs showing the sexual molestation and exploitation of children were found, a task force news release stated.

The ages of the children depicted varied.

"The estimated ages of the children range from toddlers to young teens" Anderson said.

Anderson also said this case involved a younger age that the task force doesn't usually see, which makes this very unusual.

"It seems the suspects are getting younger and younger, which is a problem," Anderson said.

Columbia Police Department Sgt. Ken Hammond said the ages of the suspects would continue to be young as technology improves.

"These cases are more prevalent as more people get involved with the Internet and know how to make better use of their resources with the Internet, '" Hammond said.

Anderson said though LimeWire or any other file-sharing program can mislead a person with a file and they accidentally download child pornography, the suspects usually have downloaded dozens of child pornography files.

"We usually do not arrest individuals for having one or two, or even three files on their computer, but if you have dozens as with this case, then you knowingly downloaded the files," Anderson said.

The task force arrests individuals who they prove have child pornography files and detectives gather evidence through various means.

"As with this case, before we arrested him we examined his computer, interviewed people close to the situation, and then sent Boone County police to arrest him," Anderson said.

Merilee Crockett, assistant prosecutor of Boone County Circuit Court, said the amount of child pornography on the Internet is staggering and a significant amount has been located on computers in Boone County.

"I have a number of cases currently pending, and I did two jury trials last year for child pornography," Crockett said.

Crockett also said the task force serves more than just Boone County and its resources are spread very thin.

"They are working very hard to stay current with the number of investigations they have," Crockett said.

Hall was the only individual arrested in this case, and it was his first offense. He is still being held on $40,000 bond, the news release stated.

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