Man Convicted for Asking for CSAM on Mom Blogs–US v. Moran

Moran made several comments on generally-wholesome “mom blogs” asking moms to have their daughters create CSAM to his specifications. Among other crimes, he was prosecuted for attempted CSAM production. His defense was basically that it was so stupid to ask for CSAM on mom blogs that it wasn’t really a criminal “attempt.” I don’t recall seeing this precise argument before, but you already know how well the appellate court responded to it.

Specifically, Moran argued that he lacked the requisite intent because “his efforts to procure child pornography via comments on mom-blogs were almost surely destined to fail.” While that may be true, the court’s response is emphatic: “A defendant’s desire alone—wholly without respect to his likelihood of success—can establish his intent.”

Also, Moran made a “I’m just shitposting” defense, saying he was just trolling the moms. This defense also goes nowhere: “Moran could have, for example, desired both outcomes—that his messages would both (1) troll people and (2) result in the production of child pornography.”

The court says there was sufficient evidence of Moran’s intent:

  • “evidence that Moran asked for child pornography is evidence that he desired to obtain—and thus to produce—child pornography.” Basically, occam’s razor.
  • he had 1,000 items of CSAM and 24 kids’ underwear in his possession, and “Moran’s sexual interest in children speaks to his desire to obtain child pornography.”
  • the fact he lied about posting under the online alias at issue undermines his credibility on his other claims.

The appeals court affirms his conviction. He was sentenced to 64 years in jail.

Moran’s argument reminded me a little of the “fantasy defense” from the 1990s, where a defendant in a sexual predation case claims he believed his conversing party was an adult pretending to be a child as part of their fantasy, and thus he never intended to have sex with a child. That defense worked in the Patrick Naughton case, but it has rarely worked since. Instead, as the Moran case shows, the most likely outcome is that courts will interpret the messages to mean exactly what they say.

On the plus side, this opinion showed its emojis.

Case citation: U.S. v. Moran, 2023 WL 176787 (11th Cir. Jan. 13, 2023)

UPDATE: Another case where the “I’m just shitposting” “defense” failed.