Ardmore, Lower Merion Township, PA —  District Judge Michael P. Quinn transferred the case against Richard J. Quinn-Simons, 32, of Ardmore, to Norristown.

“I don’t understand, we worked this out two months ago,” stated Investigator Gibble who appeared miffed that something had gone wrong with the hearing.

The Pennsylvania State Police arrested Richard J. Quinn-Simons on 141 counts of child pornography, on December 5, 2018. On Wednesday Quinn-Simons faced his accuser and had his first day in court in Narberth. The preliminary hearing was held in Courtroom 3, before District Judge Michael P. Quinn.

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Quinn-Simons faces a variety of charges, according to the court officials — including 40 counts of dissemination of photos/film of child sex acts, a felony in the third degree;  100 counts of child pornography, also a felony in the third degree; and 1 count of criminal use of communication facility, a felony in the third degree.

Sitting on the left side of the courtroom was Investigator Mark S. Gibble of the Criminal Investigations Bureau of the Pennsylvania State Police. Sitting on the right side facing the judge was Richard J. Quinn-Simons and his defense lawyer Michael Kotik, Esq.

According to legal sources, the 40 counts of dissemination could mean that the police investigation revealed evidence that child pornography was sent out, or disseminated, from a device linked to the Quinn-Simons — unlike the other child pornography charges that could mean images were simply found on a device linked to the suspect.

 

A Problem for the Prosecution?

Kotik stated that the defendant waived his preliminary hearing for all counts except three.  Gibble made his comment and the two sides had a brief meeting in the Judge's Chambers.

Re-entering the almost empty courtroom, Judge Quinn explained that the chambers meeting was to discuss the fact that these hearings were open to the public and that there was not going to be a change to the open hearing.

Kotik then affirmed that the defendant was waiving the preliminary hearing.   
 

Are you Sure?

To complete the process of waiving the preliminary hearing, Judge Quinn somberly asked Quinn-Simons a series of questions where he was required to verbally answer yes or no.

 

  • Judge: “Did your attorney explain what the proceedings were about?”
  • Quinn-Simons: “Yes.”
  • Judge: “Did you have this attorney for a substantial period of time to advise you?”
  • Quinn-Simons: “Yes.”
  • Judge: “Do you understand that you are waiving your rights to question your accuser at this hearing?”
  • Quinn-Simons: “Yes.”

 

The line of questioning by the judge is very important, according to legal experts.  The judge was making sure that the defendant willingly and with the advice of counsel waived his rights at the hearing.  The questions and affirmative answers provide that the defendant had counsel and understood the gravity of what he was agreeing to.

The judge made notations on his computer and announced that Quinn-Simons case would be transferred to Norristown and that he scheduled a hearing March 27th, 2019 at 9:30 AM in video courtroom I.

After the hearing, defense attorney Michael N. Kotic and I spoke in the parking lot outside the building that houses three Lower Merion and Narberth judges, and their individual courtroom.  

“These charges are not what they appear to be,” stated Kotik.  

Things are not what they seem Kotik emphasized, and he wished that he could say more, but he needed to hold back to provide the best defense for his client.

“His house and many other things are on the line here,” said Kotik. The young attorney asked that we not take any pictures of his client.  It was only a few minutes past 2:00 PM and Kotik departed in a Cadillac.

Quin-Simmons was still inside.   

According to Pennsylvania’s law, Code 18 Pa.C.S. §  106(e) provides that Felonies of the third degree are punishable by a maximum of 7 years confinement and a maximum fine of $15,000. If Quinn-Simons were convicted of all 141 counts and received the maximums he would spend the rest of his life behind bars in a state-run penitentiary.

The hearing started at 1:30 and lasted less than 25 minutes.  The judge announced that the courts were closing due to the weather at 2:00 PM. (It was raining and had not snowed)  At 2 PM, the doors were locked from the inside and workers and others remained in the building. At 2:45 PM we departed and Quinn-Simons was still inside.

Kotik agreed to a phone conversation after we scheduled with his office.  We have been unable to reach Kotik.
 

What is Next?

To get insight into the waiving of the defendant’s rights, we turned to Philadelphia criminal defense attorney, Pierre LaTour, of Scarpello & LaTour.  LaTour is not linked to this case in any way.  

As a defense attorney LaTour specializes in specific fields including internet sex crimes, so his legal expertise and real-life knowledge is helpful in understanding why someone would waive their rights at a preliminary hearing.   

In the courtroom, recorders and cameras are prohibited. We used our notes to relay what we saw and heard to get LaTour’s insight.

LaTour said that in his experience 9 out of 10 times when a defendant waives his right to the preliminary hearing a deal is in the making or has been made.  

According to LaTour, Quinn-Simons will go to Norristown and most likely plead not guilty.  After that — and behind the scenes — the DA’s office will be working with the defense attorney to try to wrap the case up and get a plea that both sides can live with.

 

How we got to this Point

LaTour pointed out that these types of cases hinge on the source of the files, be it where they are stored or where they were shared from.

The usual procedure for the state police in these types of investigations, said LaTour, is that they will use dedicated investigators who monitor peer-to-peer websites and file sharing programs, such as BitTorrent, the free LimeWire version that is still around and others of that ilk.

In his experience, LaTour noted that police investigators look for the trading of digital images or videos that are tagged in a certain way. This tips them off that the files may be child pornography,

"Generally the police show up and, they speak to anybody that they can at the property attached to the IP address," he said.

He called this the investigating stage and said that the police are focused on the devices so that they will ask if they can come and speak to someone at the address. They may then ask questions about other computers in the home, who has access to the computers, how many people know about the computers both in and outside the home. They often, he added, ask to look at the computers.

Nobody is under arrest at this stage of the investigation, stressed LaTour. It's when the police have a warrant, he said, that the tone changes in the investigation.

Somewhere along the way the state police requested and received a warrant from a judge allowing the PSP investigators to search and collect evidence.

Quinn-Simons, a Harriton High graduate, is no stranger to electronic devices or file sharing. Until his arrest, he had been working at Evolve IP in Wayne, PA, since 2012. He was listed as the Senior Manager - Client Support / Network Security Operations Center. Prior to that, he worked for the Geek Squad through Best Buy.

Quinn-Simons, however, is no longer employed at Evolve IP.  "RJ Quinn-Simons is no longer employed at Evolve IP," said Don Menning, Executive Vice President of Global Marketing for Evolve IP, "and has had no involvement with our business since his arrest." 

Evolve IP describes themselves as one of the world's fastest growing Cloud Strategy Companies, providing best-of-breed cloud solutions to more than 1,500 enterprises across the globe and to more than 350,000 users. Years of working in that particular field of tech likely gave Quinn-Simons some familiarity with the devices that store images and how the cloud works and data is both stored and transferred securely.

When the police have a warrant, LaTour said, “the warrant will cover all electronics in the home, and the police will collect all electronics like cell phones, computers, tablets, notepads.” He said they would even collect anything that can store this type of information including cameras and thumb drives.

A forensic examination is performed on the items collected, and if anything that is found falls under what they know to be child pornography, the investigators go into action.

"They will leverage the number of images or videos that they find," said LaTour, "against whomever, they want to charge."

"What that means is that if they find 100 images that the investigators consider child pornography, they will come up with 100 counts against that individual."

And that is what has allegedly happened in this case.

 

Take the Plea?

By dangling a plea deal and having the defendant waive the preliminary hearing the prosecution doesn’t have to reveal its hand to the defendant.  According to LaTour the defense strategy can be fraught with peril. Valuable insight into the case is lost by not being able to question witnesses or see what basic evidence that prosecutors may have.    

"If someone sells cocaine 100 times to people they only charge you for distribution one time. With child pornography charges they charge you with dissemination 40 times. This ratchets up the pressure on the defendant."

“This is considered a pressure point that is designed to allow the prosecution to drive a plea deal,” said LaTour. “Often the state will make an offer where if the defendant waives their preliminary hearing, the defendant will get no jail time.”

"Yet if convicted this way," LaTour said, they still register under Megan's Law, This conviction, because of the sex offender registry, will follow them wherever they go to try to work.”

And that's just the beginning in terms of leverage that the state brings to bear on those charged with this type of sex crime.

"The results can be devastating and unrepairable," said LaTour of people charged with child pornography. Even just one charge can create a sizeable stigma and damage an individual.

He cited some of the difficulties that typically crop up in cases like Quinn-Simons; how many people had access to the devices where the evidence was found. It could be the person charged, he said, or the roommate, a brother, a casual acquaintance who stayed overnight.

Waiving a preliminary hearing is sometimes in the client’s best interests.  LaTour added, however, that not doing so doesn’t mean the dealing stop. There could, he said, still be a plea to be had.

LaTour reminds us that people facing this kind of charge or accusation need the advice and counsel of a trial-tested lawyer that deals with these kinds of cases regularly.  LaTour advises that "if a police officer or investigator shows up or calls you, looking for information about websites visited or who used computers in your home, or how many computers you have and how many you don't, then you need to contact a defense attorney immediately."

Because of the specialized technological aspects of these kinds of cases, LaTour also said, "you can't just get any defense attorney."  "You need an experienced criminal defense attorney that has worked on these types of cases before, so they can adequately represent you."

 

How to Move Forward

Since the story broke, Quinn-Simons has removed his Facebook account.  Could this be the stigma factor that LaTour spoke of? A check of his LinkedIn account shows that RJ Quinn-Simons is still employed with Evolve IP as a Senior Manager - Client Support / Network Security.  

According to the LinkedIn profile Quin-Simmons hold certifications in ITIL, Six Sigma Green Belt and Six Sigma Lean.

ITIL, is an acronym for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, a set of practices for IT service management.  "Six Sigma" is a training program aimed at business professionals that is touted as helping to streamline operations and improve efficiency.

This is an ongoing story and TAPinto will be providing regular updates.

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