Crime: Possession of child pornography
Fatal mistakes: Misunderstanding the “Investigation” part of “Federal Bureau of Investigation”; believing that honesty is always the best policy.
The circumstances: On Aug. 29, 2008—his birthday—Pelletier interviewed for a job with the FBI. During the interview, Pelletier volunteered that he had once done research on child pornography as part of a graduate school project. As the interview progressed, Pelletier revealed to the incredulous agents that he had child pornography on his home computer, that he possibly had hardcore child pornography on his home computer, and that he had “inadvertently” created child pornography by filming himself having sex with an underage girl. Not only did Pelletier volunteer all this information, he apparently went home thinking he was still a candidate for the job: Upon leaving, he inquired if “this was going to slow down the application process?"
Yeah, it sort of did. Earlier this year, Pelletier was convicted of one count of possession of child pornography and sentenced to 80 months in federal prison with no possibility of parole. Last week, the Seventh Circuit affirmed Pelletier’s conviction. The opening of Judge Michael Kanne’s tremendously entertaining opinion is worth quoting in full:
"Federal investigative agents will tell you that some cases are hard to solve. Some cases require years of effort—chasing down false leads and reigning in flighty witnesses. Others require painstaking scientific analysis, or weeks of poring over financial records for a hidden clue. And some cases are never solved at all—the right witness never comes forward, the right lead never pans out, or the right clue never turns up.This is not one of those cases."