One member of Playpen, a darknet child pornography forum, recently received a prison sentence of almost 18-years. Daryl Glenn Pawlak was one of the many Playpen members caught by the FBI in a single operation dubbed “Operation Pacifier.” Pawlak, a 39-year-old man from Texas, had previously pleaded guilty to the receipt of child pornography and one count of access with intent to view sexual images of a minor.
DeepDotWeb covered dozens of Operation Pacifier suspects as they battled the case for one reason or another. And for rusted reasons, we covered the case as a whole; The FBI illegally hacked thousands of computers across the globe with a nearly undefined scope and unchecked reach. Because of this—and acknowledgment of it by dozens of federal judges—many Playpen members managed to get sentenced to time served or the very minimum possible sentence. One even managed to win a battle against the US Department of Justice that resulted in all charges being dropped. Pawlak, though, received more prison time than many sentenced Playpen members put together.
Some of the following cases provide a background of the ongoing battles between judges, the FBI, and the dead-to-rights child pornography watcher. In USA v. David Tippens, defendant Tippens received a six month sentence. With time served, he walked free. The DoJ dropped all charges in USA v. Jay Michaud. U.S. Federal Judge William Young in USA v. Alex Levin was just one of many federal judges to throw out the FBI’s evidence.
For obvious reasons, the United States struggled to truly prosecute many of these suspects. Few defendants received lengthy sentences. In most cases, those defendants helped run the site. The site’s owner received a sentence of 30-years in prison. And David Lynn Browning, one of the forum moderators, received 20-years in prison. “Administrator 2,” now known as Michael Fluckiger, also received 20 years for his role in site administration.
So Pawlak, a forum user who admittedly spent a lengthy 14-hours viewing the site, received a prison sentence three years shorter than the site’s senior moderators and co-admins. Pawlak, while getting caught in the FBI’s NIT trap like everyone else, also answered a phone call from the FBI and gave the equivalent of a guilty plea while on the phone. He voluntarily told an agent that he knew of Tor and that it was “pretty big” in reference to child sexual abuse sites. And that he knew of “quite a few” of these sites. He had “probably” used Playpen and his username could have been “notsoslow” (It was).
The government struck gold when prosecuting Pawlak. His phone call made the case.