Favor to change plea to guilty in child pornography case

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 3/27/16 10:21am

African and African American studies and English professor J. Martin Favor plans to plead guilty to a federal child pornography charge, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

By signing an “acknowledgement and waiver of rights” in the U.S. District Court in Concord, Favor indicated that at this Thursday’s hearing, he will likely plead guilty to one felony count of child pornography possession. The acknowledgement and waiver of rights, however, is not binding, and thus Favor does not necessarily have to plead guilty. The case could still go to trial afterward.

Under a felony charge, Favor could face up to 10 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 and a term of supervised release.

Favor was arrested last year on Sept. 4 for the alleged possession of child pornography. Five complaints filed by the police on the day of Favor’s arrest allege that Favor knowingly had in his possession videos depicting the graphic sexual abuse of several prepubescent boys and a prepubescent girl. At his arraignment last year, Favor pleaded not guilty.In November, federal authorities took over the case. The five state-level charges against Favor were replaced with one federal count of possessing child pornography.

According to a recently unsealed affidavit reported on by The Valley News, authorities reinforced their case against Favor by tying him to child pornography found on Tumblr. Three images and a video uploaded by the user “lustyjourney” setoff an alert in Tumblr’s computer system, which draws upon a database of files previously flagged as child porn.

Computer science department chair Hany Farid helped develop the technology behind this file-matching system. According to a 2009 news release from Microsoft, Farid worked on the company’s PhotoDNA technology — a resource that determines the “digital fingerprint or hash value” of a specific digital image and matches it to existing copies of the image in question.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children currently uses PhotoDNA and oversees the program that Tumblr used in this instance. The affidavit states that investigators used this technology to associate Favor’s IP address with the images of child pornography.

The College has kept Favor on paid administrative leave since September.Favor has been a professor at the College for 22 years and formerly chaired the African and African American studies program.

The change-of-plea hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. on March 31 in the U.S. District Court in Concord.