I am Nancy Cohen, wife of Ivan Cohen, who was charged and convicted of possession and distribution of Child Pornography.
Last week, Radio, TV and the newspapers stated the court of Appeal decision to uphold the conviction, but, to reduce the sentence from 14 months in jail, to 14 months of house arrest.
After 4 years of silence, I, my husband and our children want our side of the story told. This won't change what has happened, but, as a family, we want the community to know the facts that were never told.
In July of 1997, and during the raid of our house, over 1,200 floppy diskettes were seized, along with all our computer equipment, hard drives, CDs, printers, right down to power bars, as well as our VCR, video tapes, and the like. Not one image of child pornography was found in our home, or in any of the seized material. The computer hard drives were sent to the RCMP forensic labs in Ottawa, where they were dissected in minute detail, and we have since learned, they can find material on a hard drive long after it's been deleted by a user. They reported no images found.
What was shown in court was images received by an undercover police officer, and they say they can prove the sender to be Ivan. They said it was Ivan, because the ISP address, the information the computer uses as an electronic street address, was the same. As an analogy, this would be like sending a letter through the mail, but, putting someone else's return address on the back.
So, where did we go wrong?
Our original Defense council could never persuade the fact that anyone, anywhere, can send anything through someone else's computer and make it appear to be you. Our original Defense council never used the services of a computer expert, since we were told it would be too much trouble to gather the necessary background papers on the expert to present to the court to validate the expert status.
Today, 2017, anyone who knows anything knows this kind of hack is a piece of cake to execute. "Kiddie" scripts are sold on the Internet to do just this. 12-year olds can get into people's computers. The original defense lawyer was a fool. In 1999 anyone who knew the jargon, was able to send an email, and had a good courtroom presence could be presented as an "expert" in a trial. This same person had quasi carte blanche to say almost anything, knowing it would be taken at face value since there were few people qualified to understand and challenge what was being said... and there were careers to be made and promotions to be had.
James LeCraw killed himself.
Our second lawyer, handling our appeal, Lawrence Greenspon, stated as he read the transcripts that this trial was a witch hunt, and Ivan never had a chance. It was only during the appeal hearing that we realized how wrong this had gone. Since the original lawyer handling our case had not objected to any of the details surrounding evidence presented by the Crown, the appeal court justices could not object either. During the appeal, one of the judges of the appeal court stated, "Unfortunately, Mr. Greenspon, we are not here to retry the case and we must use the facts we have". In fact, the written decision handed down by the appeal court numerous times referenced the lack of the original Defense council to challenge or present information.
I'd like to review some facts with you
1. No photographic child pornography images were found in the house. Nothing in print, nothing on hard drives, nothing on floppy drives, CDs or tapes. Nothing.
2. The police officer, using the nickname Bam-Bam corresponded with the perpetrator of this crime by email as well as chat sessions. No emails or logs were found in our computers to indicate any correspondence with Bam-Bam.
3. It is extremely difficult to remove all traces of material from a hard drive and a forensic investigation would certainly find tell-tales of this type of material if it existed. Nothing was found.
4. A friend of my eldest son worked at BCONNEX, the Internet service provider where we had our Internet account. He had access to all the files, login names and passwords, since they were all kept in hardcopy in a unlocked file cabinet. This information and lack of security at BCONNEX was verified at the preliminary hearing by staff of BCONNEX called to testify at that hearing. This information about the Internet Service Provider was never presented at the trial. Further evidence presented to the preliminary hearing proving the existence of child pornography on the newsgroup server of the BCONNEX system was not presented at trial.
5. This friend's name came up during the trial, and the police sought out and found this individual, and brought him in for questioning. He admitted to stealing logins and passwords from Future Shop in Barrie, by going into the store, and emailing them from the store to himself. This person was never called to testify, and the interview was never presented in court, and the jury was never made aware of this information. Why? Our Defense council told us he expected the trial to last one week, he had only charged us for one week, and the trial had gone on for three weeks at that time.
This same friend had spent many nights at our home and was sometimes found on our computer, on the Internet in the middle of the night after our son has fallen asleep. He knew all the information about our family that was shared during chat room discussions and served to be the basis for police believing the culprit was my husband. He had a dislike for my husband because he got in trouble at home for missing school, and it was common knowledge the schools attendance voice notification system was installed by my husband.
This individual had a falling out with my son over a common girlfriend. This individual had disappeared until the police found him during the trial, and brought him in for questioning. The purpose of the questioning was to discredit my son's testimony of these facts during the trial. Once the interview was completed and the admission was made regarding theft of Future Shop's information, the Crown decided not to bring this person to testify. Instead, a copy of the interview transcript was given to the Defense council, who did not act upon it. Further, because both Crown and Defense were aware of this, this information could not be brought up during the appeal process even though it was not presented at trial. The appeal court can only consider new evidence and then, there are strict rules on the presentation of new evidence during an appeal. Since the Defense and Crown knew this information, it was our loss.
6. One of the appeal court judges raised the question as to whether the images received by the police officer were actually photographs, or digitally prepared images, not of real people, and questioned if this was looked at during the trail. It was not.
7. Books were found in our bedroom and one was called Nap Time. The book was never read, or seized by the police. At trial, the police used this book, and the judge referred to this book during his charge to the jury to show the more likelihood that my husband was the perpetrator of the crime. Truly, this is really judging a book by it's cover. Let's go back and look at how this book came to be in our home. A close girlfriend of mine I've known since high school was completing her degree in Criminology, and wanted to be a parole officer. This book was part of the reading material for her course. She knew my husband was interested in courtroom drama books and gave this one to us. The book is a journalists account of a day-care child abuse case in the U.S. After the trial and before the sentencing hearing, this book was given to Doctor John Bradford, one of the top Forensic Psychiatrists in Canada, associated with the Royal Ottawa Hospital. Doctor Bradford is recognized by all levels of the court up to and including the Supreme Court of Canada as one of the premiere experts in his field. Dr. Bradford had one of his student read the book. Doctor Bradford stated to me "Mrs. Cohen, there is nothing sinister about this book and this book has no relation to Ivan's case at all. The perpetrator in the case is female, and the case does not relate to child pornography in any way.
Another book in the same drawer was from the author Max Hanes, a collection of short stories about major criminal cases and their proceedings. Hanes has a weekly syndicated newspaper distribution of these same stories.
8. My husband has maintained his innocence throughout all this. Judge Weeks stated that since my husband showed no remorse he should be judged harshly.
9. The crown attorney at the jury trial stated only the FBI and the CIA hack computers and the jury accepted this information as fact. There was no opportunity to rebut the crown's summation to the jury. We all know from recent media attention that computer hacking is an epidemic and even a 14 year old can hack into computers, and create havoc for legitimate users. Most of the jury members were seniors, with little or no understanding of the Internet. With no effort to the contrary from my lawyer during the trial, and the lack of an Internet expert to show how easily hacking is to carry out, they had no choice, and in fact, no knowledge of the Internet to believe otherwise and accepted the crown's statements as truth, when this was a deceitful statement.
Before the sentencing hearing, the Crown forwarded all the court materials to a criminal psychologist for an assessment. This doctor, without ever meeting or talking to my husband, presented a very damaging report profiling my husband as a very bad person. To correct this, my husband went to Ottawa for testing by Doctor Bradford. This testing was of our choice, and was not demanded by the court. The testing procedure is very intense, absolutely accurate and cannot be falsified. The tests included blood tests, written and computer based testing, as well as stimuli testing with probes attached to the phallus. The stimuli testing included both still image and video forms, in addition to audio stimuli testing and written materials. The result of these test concluded my husband was determined to be a normal male in every way. Again, these tests were on our own recourse, since we wanted the court and our community to know what kind of man Ivan Cohen is. This report was forwarded to the crown and subsequently, to the OPP criminal psychologist for comment. He agreed with and accepted the report, stating had he met my husband, he would have completed the same tests. Even with this confirmation, the OPP still submitted the original, damaging report to the court for consideration.
1. Detective Constable Anton Litchfield, on returning for the second search of our home, said that if he didn't get my husband, and he pointed at our 17 year old son, "I'll be coming back for you"
2. The police arrived at our home at 5:50am on July 2, 1997. They pulled our eldest son out of bed and had him dress in front of the officers. As they were going into our youngest children's room, 10 and 11 at the time, I stopped them and got the children up.
3. I was questioned by Det. Cst. Litchfield and another officer in my backyard, wearing only a housecoat, having been taken out of a bath. I was not wearing undergarments and was not permitted to return to my bedroom to get dressed, not even with an escort, even though I was having my period. After this interrogation, where I was told to tell them everything I knew and that my husband had already confessed, I ran down the street to a neighbour, in only my housecoat. This incident was never presented in court.
4. Det. Cst. Litchfield attended at our son's high school, Barrie North Collegiate, flashing a business card identifying himself as an "Investigator, Child Pornography", Project P, offering his card to the office staff and seeking to speak with our son. The Principal was concerned and phoned us at home. He found this visit highly irregular, as police officers know they cannot question a minor without the presence of a parent or guardian. When the principal refused to allow our son to be questioned, the officers left immediately, causing the principal to make notes of the visit for future reference since this was a highly irregular procedure for police. He felt this visit was to create awareness and embarrass our son, and, had the police wanted to pick our son up for questioning, they could have picked him up off the street less than 15 minutes later when school ended. Our son was in his OAC year and due to the stress and harassment at school, he was unable to complete his winter semester.
5. The search of our home took about 12 hours, and was performed by approximately a dozen officers. I have never had the feeling of having been so violated as returning to our home after this was over. At the commencement of the search, I told the officers where to reach me if they needed access to anything in our home. Rather than contact me, they pried open and broke my son's new briefcase, a special gift received as a bar mitzvah present from his grandfather and uncle, and then hid the damaged briefcase under a bed in a corner. When I returned to our home at about 4 o'clock, the house was in shambles. I demanded the officers return the house to the condition they found it in. Since they were not finished their search I had to again leave, and when I returned at 8 o'clock that evening, the house was in a visually improved condition. They had simply jammed everything in drawers.
6. My husband was employed by RadioShack as Manager, National Sales Promotion. After the charges were laid, he was placed on leave of absence, and subsequently terminated by RadioShack. Ivan found a sales position with Modular Telephone Interface Limited, now Lexsys Networks, in Oakville. His performance in this position led to promotion to Sales Manager, even though they were aware of the proceedings against him. However, they felt the trial publicity and the calls to the company by the media at the start of the trial were too detrimental and Ivan again was terminated. Ivan is now employed in another field, outside of sales.
7. The harassment of our youngest children at their school and in the neighbourhood by both children and adults, including one adult who was one of his Navy League Cadet leaders was too hard to bear and we relocated to another community to rebuild our lives.
8. The current publicity surrounding the appeal has again put our family in the limelight, and our new community, where we had been accepted for who we are, now regard us in distain. This is perhaps the most important reason for this statement, to tell our side of the story.
Actions of the police
There were many incidences of police activity that show the investigation was targeted and subjected to tunnel vision, with disregard for information that would exonerate my husband. Throughout the preliminary hearing, information coming to light that would help prove innocence was ignored, however, any possible evidence to convict was vigorously followed up.
During the trial, our eldest son became aware of some of the information contained in the RCMP report on our hard drives. In addition to information regarding his former friend found on a broken hard drive seized from our home, there was additional information on another user, who used an almost identical nickname on the chat areas. Emails were found where this individual was attempting to procure young female friends. When investigated, at this person's home page, we discovered he was employed as a senior technical for Sprint Internet which gives him considerable knowledge about the workings of the Internet. That evening, Justin searched and found him in a child pornography area on the Internet. Justin, pretending to be a young person, engaged him in a conversation and the individual indicated he had hundreds of child pornography images. During the direct-connection conversation, Justin performed two system tests that confirm the identity of the chatter. These tests are NETSTAT and TRACERT. The police did not follow up this information. It is important to note these tests were never attempted during conversations with the perpetrator of the crime for which my husband was convicted, or if they were, the information was never released.
In reading the chat logs created by the police during their investigation and presented by the police to the court, there were several times the chatter offered to meet the undercover police officer. I'm at a loss to understand why they never arranged such a meeting and resolve this matter at that time with an arrest.
About a year and a half before the trial, the OPP contacted the Ministry of Transportation, and advised them of my husband's "Record of Convictions" and had his Class B driver's license rescinded. Ivan had no convictions of any kind at that time.
These, as well as many other incidents of police activity were brought to the attention of the Professional Standards Branch of the OPP. Although they initially showed much interest, because the complaint to the PSB was over six months past the time of the activities, and because this was still before the courts, under the Police Act Section 59(4), they did not have to investigate and considered the matter closed. The appeal procedure for this is to OCCOPS, the provincial government/civilian police review agency. We forwarded our information to OCCOPS, who supported to OPP decision - not that the officers were right or wrong, but, because of the six month deadline, they didn't have to investigate their own.
Nothing will ever change what has been said in the media, and, after investing $70,000 in legal fees, we can no longer fight. My husband will serve his 14 month house arrest sentence and have a criminal record for a crime he did not commit. Under the new Christopher's Law, he has been branded a sexual offender and must now register with the OPP sexual offender registry, every year, for life.
We want to live in peace and harmony in the community where we reside. We want people to see us as the people who have moved to this community, participated in this community, helped in this community. We want to again become active in this community, and hold our heads high. Our children have flourished here, with the wonderful friends they have met, through not only the schools, but the community itself. Our friends have stood beside us throughout this entire affair, and we want to thank those that know us and supported us. We want the members of our new community who have come to accept us for who we are and how we act to feel the same way now, as they did prior to the adverse publicity of earlier this week.
Anyone, anywhere, could have accessed the computers owned by a Barrie man who is charged with distributing child pornography over the Internet, a jury heard in a Superior Court in Barrie this week.
Ivan Cohen, 43, has pleaded not guilty to four counts of distributing child pornography over the Internet and one count of possession. The charges followed an eight-month investigation by OPP Child Pornography Unit known as project P.
The Crown alleges Cohen used several computer nicknames, including CanadaM, Ontdad and MMMale on sex chat lines on the Internet, and sent several graphic images of child pornography to people with whom he was web chatting.
Court has heard from three witnesses who testified they received pictures of children having sex with men, from someone using the same nicknames. Two of the witnesses were OPP detectives from Project P who were posing as chat line friends.
Det. Anton Litchfield testified Cohen's computers were seized from the basement of his family home and investigators retrieved files from the computer hard-drives that matched the chat-line conversations he had with CanadaM. Several other files that included the other nicknames also existed.
The jury also heard about one file police retrieved that contained a computer chat line conversation between someone using the Cohen computer and a person nicknamed evildad.
The jury listened to transcripts of that conversation when evildad said: "Do you do anything with kids?" The person on the Cohen computer responded: "I wish. I only have sons. I'd love to do a preteen." And evildad replied: "I go to South America on business. I get the young ones there ... easy to get ... costs 50 American."
But defence lawyer Walter Fox said any computer "hack" could have accessed those same computers and then "spoofed" the IP address.
"Pretty much anyone can go into someone's computer and do anything they want," said Fox, "and it would all leave logs on the computer hard-drive." One witness who works with computers agreed Fox's suggestion is possible.
The jury also heard that one of Cohen's sons often brought one of two computers the police seized from his home to "computer parties" where several computer hobbyists connect their computers to play games.
Three of the hobbyists testified they played computer games with Cohen's oldest son while all of their computers were connected, but all testified they never accessed or sent child pornography.
This week the jury also heard from a female witness who testified her nickname was Blondi when she met CanadaM on a chat line, then eventually met with him in person on two occasions.
"And is that man in this courtroom?" asked Crown attorney Frank Faveri.
"Yes, it's that man over there," said the witness, and pointed to Ivan Cohen.
The trial is expected to end this week.