Orchid Club
Archives | 1996
16 Indicted On Charges Of Internet Pornography
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The case began last spring with familiar horror: a 6-year-old girl returning home from a slumber party with a tale of sexual abuse by the father of one of her young friends.
Today, Federal officials said the girl in a small central California town had led them to one of the more distant frontiers of sexual crime.
In an indictment handed up here, a Federal grand jury charged 16 people in the United States and abroad with joining in a pornography ring that was effectively an on-line pedophilia club. Its members shared homemade pictures, recounted their sexual experiences with children and even chatted electronically as two of the men molested a 10-year-old girl, the authorities said.
The case appeared likely to heighten concerns about the spread of child pornography over the Internet. Debate has grown steadily over whether or how the government should impose obscenity standards in cyberspace, and Republican leaders have increasingly attacked the Clinton Administration for being insufficiently vigorous in the prosecution of on-line pornography cases.
Federal officials who investigated what defendants in the San Jose case called the "Orchid Club" said the crimes they came upon had little to do with questions of privacy or free speech.
Continue reading the main story

Continue reading the main story

"The thing that ups the ante in this case is that allegations of distribution of pornography are coupled with serious allegations of child molestation," said Leland B. Altschuler, the head of the United States Attorney's office in San Jose. "It's an issue relating to the protection of children, not to the First Amendment."
All 16 defendants were charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute child pornography, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Six of the men were also charged with joining or abetting in the sexual exploitation of children. The six have already pleaded not guilty to sexual-abuse charges filed against them by local prosecutors.
In addition to 13 men arrested around the United States, officials said the group included members in Finland, Canada and Australia. Although arrest warrants have been issued for those three, officials said they were still only known by their computer aliases.
Investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation said they had been brought into the case by Sheriff's deputies in Monterey County, south of San Francisco.

Responding to a complaint by the mother of the 6-year-old in Greenfield, a farming town that calls itself the "broccoli capital" of California, deputies were led first to the father of the girls who had been hosts to the slumber party, Ronald Riva. They also found computer equipment that one 10-year-old said had been used to record her as she posed for Mr. Riva and a friend of his, Melton L. Myers.
Both men were arrested on April 22.
With help from Customs Service investigators in Silicon Valley, F.B.I. agents eventually uncovered computer files that began to trace the scope of the Orchid Club, one of the thousands of virtual conference rooms of Internet Relay Chat.
Officials said they did not have to conduct wire-tap surveillance or break into encrypted files; two of the accused conspirators collaborated with investigators, going on-line in the presence of law-enforcement agents to help track other members of the club.
The authorities said it was still unclear how Mr. Riva, 38, and Mr. Myers, a 54-year-old truck driver who had been convicted of molesting two children in Orange County in 1971, had found the other participants in the chat room.
Members of the club were received on the recommendations of other members, the officials said. After being given a password to enter the chat room, they were initiated by recounting one of their sexual experiences with a child. At least eight children were molested in connection with the club.
Transcripts from some of the conversations indicate that days before the party held at Mr. Riva's home, he asked other members of the club how they might like him to videotape the 10-year-old girl. While the abuse went on, prosecutors said, Mr. Riva and Mr. Myers continued the queries, describing to others in the chat room what they were doing.
"Some called it a 'virtual molestation,' " said D. Anthony West, the Federal prosecutor in charge of the case. "I think it was a very real molestation."

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