Publisher’s Note: This article transcribes courtroom testimony that references instances of sexual exploitation carried out against minors. Reader discretion is advised.
A Chrisman man is facing two Class 2 Felony charges for possession of child pornography after his Google account revealed he downloaded interdicted videos to his cellphone.
On Feb. 1, 2023, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) received a report claiming an Edgar County resident with a Google account possessed multiple pieces of imagery depicting the sexual exploitation of minors.
“Google essentially reported that one of its users had uploaded child pornographic files into (his) account,” Chad Carlson said.
Carlson, a special agent with the Illinois State Police with 16 years of law enforcement experience, was called forward as a witness on the state’s behalf during a preliminary hearing Jan. 29.
The Monday afternoon hearing presented the state’s case against Joseph B. Totten, owner of the Google account. According to Carlson’s testimony, the Google account in question had two separate videos uploaded to it at 1 a.m. on Jan. 31, 2023.
A search warrant for the Google account linked to the NCMEC report revealed 29-year-old Totten’s personal information and internet history with platforms correlating to the source of the gruesome videos.
Carlson said past internet searches found on Totten’s account during the course of the investigation included keywords for child pornography, related images, videos and several slang terms alluding to a continual intake of illicit and illegal pornography.
Edgar County State’s Attorney Philip Dobelstein asked Carlson to describe what was found in the downloaded media that triggered the Google alert.
The special agent said there were two distinct, separate videos. Both videos clearly showed sexual interactions with prepubescent girls.
“One involved a very young female, a clearly prepubescent child and an adult male,” Carlson said. He defines a prepubescent female as someone under the age of 13.
Carlson said both videos showed the children in distress.
Because of the content discovered with the Google search warrant, the Illinois State Police obtained a search warrant for Totten’s physical address. The warrant was executed Dec. 13, 2023. A desktop computer and cell phone were seized during the ensuing search.
Additional pornographic material was found on Totten’s home desktop, although none of it could be determined to be child pornography. Carlson referred to the images as age-indeterminate pornography, images of individuals whose age cannot be clearly determined without proper identification.
Both Totten’s desktop computer and cellphone are currently being held by the Illinois State Police for further forensic investigation.
Dobelstein asked Carlson how the videos in question were uploaded to the account.
“Essentially, sometimes users can set Google accounts so that their photographs on their mobile device can automatically upload into their Google account so that they don't lose it,” Carlson explained. ”Google also allows you to also pick and choose which images or video files you want to upload. So, I'm not sure whether the person actually initiated the upload themselves, or whether it just automatically uploaded because that's what (the account) was set up to do.”
While the officer was unsure of the method of uploading the material, he reiterated several times that the investigation, performed by himself and other agents, left him confident the images were viewed and uploaded by Totten.
In the state of Illinois, possession of child pornography is considered a Class 2 Felony. If convicted, Totten could receive a prison sentence of three to seven years for each illegal item in his possession and would be added to the Illinois Sex Offender Registry for the period of his natural life.
During cross-examination by public defender Nathanael Harsy, the defendant's attorney wanted to know how Carlson could feel so confident that the Google account was created by and belonged solely to Totten.
Harsy questioned exactly how the investigators could be certain, outside of circumstantial evidence, without personally observing the defendant uploading items to the account.
“I’m very certain it was Mr. Totten,” Carlson said.
Two separate email addresses, a phone number, a linked desktop computer and cellphone, a physical address, billing records, personal (selfie-style) photographs and I.P. addresses were all discovered and linked to Totten by investigators after a search warrant for the Google account was executed.
Harsy also asked Carlson where Totten was living at the time of the search and seizure of property.
“The search was conducted at… the home of Mr. Totten’s mother,” Carlson said. He confirmed that the defendant was living at the address with his mother at the time the media was uploaded.
After hearing the testimony and cross-examination, Judge Lewis found probable cause to believe a crime had been committed and Totten was involved.
The case was scheduled for a pre-trial conference at 2 p.m. on Monday, March 25.
Totten was released from the hearing without detainment.
Totten was arrested on Dec. 13, 2023, when he was charged with two counts of possession of child pornography following the execution of the physical search warrant.
The next day, Totten was released from the custody of the Edgar County Sheriff’s Department with the condition he was permitted to have access to the Internet for work-related purposes only.