Former Berkeley lab employee convicted of possessing child pornography

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A former employee of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory was convicted of possession of child pornography on Thursday.

The federal jury found David Busby, a 60-year-old Richmond resident, guilty after a three-day trial where US Attorney Melinda Haag’s office revealed that roughly 1,400 sexually explicit images were discovered on Busby’s two work computers, one of which belonged to the Berkeley lab.

According to a court document, the images were found in unallocated space on his computers, meaning that they had been deleted but were not completely removed and were still detectable under examination.

Busby’s actions were initially detected on April 20, 2010, when a network security analyst determined that someone on the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center computer network was accessing and downloading illegal child pornography. At the time, Busby was working at the Berkeley lab and part-time at NERSC, an affiliate of the Berkeley lab.

The analyst pinpointed the behavior to the work laptop Busby was using in the office, and both his laptop and other work computers were later confiscated, according to a press release from the district attorney’s office.

In the wake of the incident, Busby confessed to law enforcement officers that he had in fact downloaded child pornography onto the two computers. He said that he would keep the images on the computers for a brief period and then delete them from his computers’ hard drives, a court document states.

However, during the trial, Busby recanted his previous statements by saying that the child pornography was unintentionally downloaded while he was visiting legal child modeling sites, according to a court document.

US attorneys pointed to documentation of computer downloads and used Busby’s previous confessions to law enforcement as proof that he did, in fact, access the images prior to deleting them.

Busby’s attorneys used the statutory affirmative defense, through which a defendant is found innocent of child pornography allegations based on two main criteria: having possessed fewer than three “matters” containing visual depictions and “promptly and in good faith” destroying the files without retaining or allowing others to retain any remnants of them.

They said that since the images were concentrated on only two computers, they qualified for fewer than three “matters,” according to a court document. They also stated that Busby deleted the files well before law enforcement discovered them.

The prosecution, however, stated that the defense’s interpretation of “matters” was inherently inaccurate and that the quantity of files disproved the claim that Busby chose to remove the files “in good faith.”

Each count of possession of child pornography is subject to a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 20 years, the press release states.

Busby’s sentencing hearing will take place on Dec. 17 in Oakland.

Claire Chiara covers research and ideas. Contact her at [email protected].