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Home / Opinions / Courts / 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals / Criminal Law : Child Pornography – Adult Material – Willful Blindness

Criminal Law : Child Pornography – Adult Material – Willful Blindness

Where a defendant in a child pornography case challenged the admission of adult pornography found on a laptop computer’s encrypted external hard drive and the admission of testimony about the images found, the challenged testimony and evidence were relevant to the key issue at trial which was whether the defendant was guilty of knowing possession and interstate transportation of child pornography, and the evidence was far less prejudicial than alternatives such as a visual depiction of the material, and the district court did not plainly err in giving a willful blindness instruction.


Actual knowledge

Dissenting opinion by Kelly, J.: “In my opinion, it was plain error to give the jury a willful blindness instruction in this case. A willful blindness instruction is appropriate only when the evidence is sufficient to support a jury’s finding that the ‘defendant was aware of facts that put

him on notice that criminal activity was probably afoot and deliberately failed to make

further inquiries, intending to remain ignorant.’

“A willful blindness instruction ‘should not be given . . . when the evidence points solely to either actual knowledge or no knowledge of the facts in question.’

“Even assuming there was evidence that Novak was on notice that his hard drive might contain contraband images, the government presented no evidence that Novak “deliberately failed to make further inquires, intending to remain ignorant.’”

Judgment is affirmed.

U.S. v. Novak (MLW No. 70871/Case No. 16-1911 – 12 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Loken, J.) Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, Kyle, J. (Keala C. Ede, Minneapolis, argued for appellant) (David Genrich, Minneapolis, argued for appellee).

Read the full text of this opinion. (PDF)