A Canadian Forces maritime patrol captain who works at 19 Wing Comox has been convicted of accessing and possessing child pornography, despite his claims that he inadvertently downloaded the material while attempting to access adult porn on the Internet.
Capt. Glen Engebretson, a navigator, was found guilty of one charge each of accessing and possessing child pornography Thursday in Courtenay Provincial Court. He has not yet been sentenced.
On April 27, 2010, members of the RCMP’s Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit and local RCMP officers executed a search warrant at Engebretson’s home, where they seized two computers.
On those two computers was evidence of numerous videos and photographs featuring children being sexually abused. Much of the illegal material had been deleted and could only be accessed using file recovery software.
At trial, Engebretson didn’t deny the existence of the illegal material on his computers, but said that the child pornography had been accidentally downloaded from file-sharing sites including Limewire when he was looking for adult porn. A number of other files, including mainstream Hollywood movies and adult pornography, were also found on the two computers.
In total, about 150 video files and 120 images that met the definition of child pornography were found on Engebretson’s computers, though some of the videos were fragments that made up larger files.
In his testimony, Engebretson said he paid little attention to the names of the files he downloaded and when he had a chance to preview the material, he would immediately delete any content featuring children.
However, in his decision Judge D. Cowling pointed to Engebretson’s frequent use of a search term often associated with child pornography. Engebretson said in court he was not aware that the term was related to child pornography and that in his experience, use of the term resulted in high-quality adult material that was free of pop-up ads.
An expert witness for the prosecution testified that the term is known to both police and child pornographers as an indication of illegal material involving underage subjects.
In rendering his verdict, Cowling acknowledged Engebretson’s above-average intelligence and proficiency with computers, noting that Engebretson’s stated ignorance of the search term’s meaning seemed implausible for someone of his capability.
Justice Cowling also said that had Engebretson not used the term, he wouldn’t have had to wade through “a swamp of child pornography” in order to access the adult material he said he was looking for. He called the method, “an abhorrent way to access adult pornography”, and said “a person interested in lawful pornography would have abandoned that term.”
The investigation into Engebretson’s online activities originated in Europe and involved the identification of a number of computers found in possession of child pornography through file-sharing networks.
The Department of National Defence was unable to comment directly on the situation, but did provide this statement:
“The Canadian Armed Forces hold their members to a very high standard of conduct and performance, in Canada and abroad, on or off military duty. When an incident, a special circumstance, or a professional deficiency occurs that calls into question the member’s suitability for continued service, an administrative review will be initiated to ensure the most appropriate career administrative action is taken.”
Engebretson is due back in court this week in order to fix a date for sentencing. The charges carry a maximum sentence of five years each.
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