A federal court jury in Billings took less than an hour to convict a Circle man of child pornography charges on Wednesday.
The panel deliberated 40 minutes before finding Matthew Stoney Olson, 39, guilty of receipt and possession of child porn from April to June 2015 as charged in an indictment. The trial began on Monday.
Olson faces a mandatory minimum five years to 20 years in prison on the receipt count.
U.S. District Judge Susan Watters set sentencing for Feb. 15 and continued Olson’s release.
“It was not me,” Olson testified in his defense Tuesday.
Olson said he believed someone else downloaded child porn images and videos onto his computer and suggested it was done by a person who was involved in a custody battle over his children.
Olson also said his laptop had broken down about a month before it was seized by federal agents.
Olson’s testimony, along with defense witness testimony from his mother, two teenage children and a former girlfriend, often conflicted with the prosecution’s witnesses. Two special agents with the Department of Homeland Security and an agent with the Montana Department of Justice testified for the government.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Colin Rubich and Tom Godfrey said the case began when DHS Special Agent Al Kinsey, who investigates child porn, identified through a child protection software system an internet provider address that was downloading suspected child porn files using a peer to peer program. Such a program allows computer users to share files with each other. The internet provider address was registered to Olson.
Investigators downloaded some of the suspected files from Olson’s internet address and determined they contained child porn.
Law enforcement agents served a search warrant on Olson’s home, just outside of Circle, on June 15, 2015, and seized computers. Only one of the computers, an HP silver laptop that was found in Olson’s bedroom, contained child porn, prosecutors said.
A forensic search of Olson’s laptop found it contained 22 videos totaling eight hours of child porn and 289 images. The videos and images showed mostly prepubescent girls, from about age four to 12, engaged in sexually explicit activity.
The prosecution showed the jury 15 still images and two 30-second video clips that represented a sampling the activity in the 22 videos.
Prosecution witnesses testified that the peer-to-peer file-sharing program had been downloaded to Olson’s computer in 2011 and that he routinely downloaded child porn, viewed it, deleted it and downloaded more.
Assistant Federal Defenders Mark Werner and Steve Babcock did not dispute the presence of child porn on Olson’s computer. Rather, they maintained the evidence did not show that Olson was the one who received and possessed it.
Other people used Olson’s laptop, its password was common knowledge and there was no effort to hide or further secure the child porn images within the computer, the defense said.
Two main areas of disputed testimony involved who used the computers in Olson’s residence and what happened on June 14, 2015, the night before agents served the search warrant.
Kinsey testified that Olson’s mother, Debra Olson, came to the house after the search had begun and identified the users of three laptops that were seized. Debra Olson, he said, told him that the silver laptop belonged to her son and that he was the only one who used it.
Debra Olson testified she did not tell the agent that only her son used his computer. She said she told the agent she put her son’s laptop in his bedroom the night before the search because she was cleaning. She also said she did not set it up and that it had broken down about a month earlier. In addition, Debra Olson said she had no idea why agents were searching the home.
The prosecution recalled Kinsey, who further testified that he was “very certain” that Debra Olson had told him no one else but Matthew Olson used his computer. At the time of the search, Kinsey said, he didn’t know which of laptops contained the suspected child porn.
Matthew Olson told the jury “no one would have ever said that” he was the only one who used his computer.
The defendant also testified his laptop quit working after he spilled soup on it about a month before the search. He denied using his laptop to view child porn the night before the search on June 15, although forensic evidence showed that child porn had been accessed on his computer.
“Police need to do some more investigating. I did not do it,” he said.
Under questioning by prosecutor Rubich, Matthew Olson said he used his bedroom for sleeping, he didn’t see his computer in his bedroom on June 14 and was “pretty sure” he went to bed alone.
When Rubich asked Olson who set up his computer, which was open on a desk and plugged in when found in the search, Olson said he didn’t know. Olson said he didn’t see the computer in his room because he got up on the other side of the bed.
When re-questioned by defender Werner, Olson said he may have slept that night in his orange chair in the living room. He also said he doesn’t smoke or drink or do anything bad. “I know my life. This is not me,” he said.
Prosecutors re-called DHS Special Agent Brent Johnsrud, who examined Olson’s computer, and questioned him about whether Olson’s laptop was broken when seized in the search.
Olson’s laptop powered up and was “in good working order,” Johnsrud replied.
Johnsrud further testified his examination of the laptop showed that someone logged onto it at 11:15 p.m. on June 14, 2015, viewed child porn files and logged out at 11:50 p.m. He also said the laptop had been used almost daily in June 2015 and regularly as far back as October 2014.