U child pornography case raises legal questions

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Eighteen minutes online could get former Marriott Library employee Ralph Kranz 150 years in jail.

On Sept. 4, the former documents librarian-and an employee at the library for the past 21 years-visited what investigators classify as child pornography sites.

On Sept. 8, technicians discovered the files in the cache folder of Kranz’s state owned U computer while dealing with a virus that had affected the library computer network. The files each had a time stamp of 3:15 p.m. to 3:33 p.m. Marriott Library Director Sarah Michalak then notified police.

Kranz waived his Miranda rights to tell the investigating officer, U Detective Mike McPharlin, that he was conducting research to see how easily accessible and available the sites were. Kranz said “he had not entered any sites,” according to McPharlin’s written report. Regardless, according to Utah Assistant Attorney General Paul Amann-the prosecutor in the case-Kranz’s explanation of conducting research is “an excuse commonly used.” Wayne Peay, director of the Eccles Health Sciences Library said, “Ralph would know you don’t go into this kind of information casually.” Peay said in order to conduct research in this area, “you would make sure you were advising your supervisor.”

Conversely, Jack Ford, spokesman for the Utah Department of Corrections, said the case “comes as a surprise to me.”

“I’m surprised there is a state law that says you can’t look at something,” said Ford. “If you’re not the one taking pictures, putting the Web site out, trafficking it, it’s real hard to make a case.”

Because people who view, traffic in or create child pornography images are all prosecuted under the same statute, Kranz faces up to 15 years for each count. Each different child pictured constitutes one count-and Kranz has been charged with 10 counts.

Prosecutor Amann-who is also a spokesman for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force-said that due to the number of images found on Kranz’s computer, “Kranz is at the upper end of folks we’ve seen.”

When asked why Kranz’s home computer was not confiscated, Amann said “there’s so much evidence that it doesn’t matter.” He also referred the question to McPharlin.

McPharlin said that obtaining the personal computer would be crossing jurisdiction lines. “It’s beyond the scope of this case to probe into whether or not he’s doing it at home.” McPharlin said there was no evidence that the files were being moved from Kranz’s office computer. “I was not able to find any place on the suspect computer where the picture files were being separately stored,” McPharlin wrote in his report.

Rather than arresting him immediately, McPharlin gave Kranz a week to arrange for a surrender. McPharlin said he did this to avoid arresting Kranz in front of neighbors and to avoid a potentially embarrassing situation. “The arrest is simply a method of ensuring this individual will appear in court and answer to the charges.” McPharlin said Kranz “is not a flight risk,” and said “there is no reason to believe he’s going to run away.”

“He’s been cooperative from the beginning,” McPharlin said. When asked to comment on Kranz’s termination, Michalak, Marriott Library director, said, “I think there is a situation of trust. I remain confidential about matters regarding personal lives that are confidential.” Michalak then said she had notified library employees that charges-filed on Oct. 27-had been pressed against Kranz. Michalak said, “I read from the formal charges” during a staff meeting attended by “more than 100 people.”

U Spokeswoman Coralie Alder confirmed Kranz is “no longer employed” at the U, but said that exact details of his termination would remain confidential. A representative from Human Resources said generally a person charged with a crime “would have to be convicted” before employment could be terminated, but also said charges such as Kranz’s were “very serious” and could allow for an exception in policy. Alder did not reply with information on U termination procedures before deadline Sunday night.

Stephen Hess, associate vice president for information technology, said the U can let people know it is a felony to download child pornography to try to prevent the occurrence. However, Hess said “We don’t monitor content on machines. We don’t want to violate privacy.” Hess also said that the files on Kranz’s computer were “discovered inadvertently.”

“What people do on their machines is their business, generally speaking.”

Kranz arranged for a surrender through Pre-Trial Services-an agency which gives clients the option of pre-trial supervision rather than posting bail. Jim Kirkman, a court screener for the group, said that after results from an evaluation on Kranz are obtained, an initial court appearance would be scheduled. Kirkman said the arraignment could take place as soon as today.

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