Ex-‘Net exec convicted on porn charge

Naughton jailed pending appeals

A federal court jury Thursday convicted a former top Walt Disney Internet executive of possessing child pornography, but deadlocked on charges that he crossed state lines seeking sex with a person he thought was a 13-year-old girl and arranged to have sex with her via the Internet.

U.S. Marshals took a stunned Patrick Naughton, 34, into custody immediately after the verdicts, against the pleas of his lawyers, who said they expect to have his conviction overturned on appeal. They asked that he remain free on bail.

Naughton, dressed in a conservative blue suit, removed his watch, belt, tie and cuff links and handed his cell phone and keys to his brother, James, before the marshals handcuffed him and led him to jail.

Naughton, the former head of Disney’s Internet portal, the Go Network, had testified during trial that his online chats with an FBI agent posing as the girl named Kris in the “dad&daughtersex” chat room were fantasy role-playing and that he assumed his conversation partner was a much older woman. He said that the pictures of naked children found in his computer were sent to him without his knowledge.

The former industry whiz-kid was arrested Sept. 16 on the Santa Monica pier, where he had arranged a rendezvous with “Kris” after flying to Burbank from Seattle to attend a meeting at Disney headquarters. He faces a possible ten years in prison at his sentencing hearing March 5.

Prosecutors said they were pleased with the verdicts and had not yet decided whether to retry Naughton on the two charges that deadlocked the jury.

U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie, who declared a mistrial on the two charges that deadlocked the jury, told defense lawyers that federal law required him to jail Naughton pending appeals because his conviction was considered a crime of violence under federal statutes.

But Naughton’s brother James told reporters outside the courtroom that he considered it “totally unnecessary” and said family members were incredulous at the decision.

The six-man, six-woman jury spent three days considering the charges against Naughton. Jurors said after the hearing that they split largely on gender lines on the deadlocked charges, with most of the women voting to convict and most of the men voting to acquit.

“For me, it seemed like a fantasy,” said 39-year-old juror Jorge Hernandez. “He didn’t touch her.”

Defense lawyers Anthony Brooklier and Donald Marks said the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal was already considering an appeal of the federal child pornography law on the grounds that it was unconstitutionally vague.

“I’m very gratified,” Marks said outside court. “At least half the jury felt that Patrick Naughton never intended to have sex with a minor.”

Asked if his client was stunned by the judge’s order jailing him immediately, Marks said: “I think we all were (stunned). I was stunned and I’ve been in this building for 30 years.”

Naughton was fired from Disney’s Go Network Internet portal the day after his arrest in September.

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