Dumb Criminal of the Week: The Job Candidate Who Told the FBI about His Child Porn Stash

A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
Nov. 29 2012 12:35 PM

Dumb Criminal of the Week: The Job Candidate Who Told the FBI about His Child Porn Stash

FBI agents
FBI agents Adam Conrath (L) and Dina Gray during a terrorism response exercise coordinated by the US Department of Homeland Security.

Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

Name: Dominick Pelletier

Crime: Possession of child pornography.

Fatal mistakes: Misunderstanding the “Investigation” part of “Federal Bureau of Investigation”; believing that honesty is always the best policy.

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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.

Indeed.

Now, on to the alternative-history part of this feature, where we examine how Dominick Pelletier might have done things differently.

How he could’ve been a lot smarter: He could have avoided downloading child porn entirely, instead doing his grad school research on how to succeed at job interviews.

How he could’ve been a little smarter: “The pornography was downloaded by my identical twin brother, who also has the same name as me.”

How he could’ve been a little dumber: “Not only did I download child pornography, I made it into a T-shirt, which, as you can see, I am wearing today.”

How he could’ve been a lot dumber: “I actually brought enough T-shirts for everyone, and I’d feel a lot more comfortable if you all put them on right now.”

Ultimate Dumbness Ranking (UDR): “Child porn downloader applies for FBI job” is the horrifying sex-crime equivalent of “Overweight burglar gets stuck in chimney.” I’ll give him 8 out of 10 on the UDR scale, a loose metric that I just made up.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.