U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Bianco sentenced 30-year-old Christopher Robert Grief to eight years in prison for receiving child pornography in interstate and foreign commerce. According to the announcement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, Grief, under the name “Mookie,” often visited child abuse forums dedicated to the torture of children. After his eight year prison sentence expires, Grief will spend a lifetime on federal supervised release and is forbidden to spend any unsupervised time with children. Furthermore, Grief must register as a sex offender.
Based on the information provided by the Department of Justice, Grief’s arrest and later conviction came from crimes committed somewhere other than the forum most written about on DeepDotWeb: PlayPen. Law enforcement raided Grief’s home in September, 2014. PlayPen publicly launched in August of the same year. The FBI could have arrested Grief, as they did with scores of Operation Pacifier members, for their involvement in PlayPen. Grief could have been one of the unlucky few that fell before the FBI had even completed Operation Pacifier.
However, during the post-arrest questioning and interrogation, Grief told officers that he had used the site for roughly one year. We know that PlayPen hand launched only one month prior to Grief’s arrest, making his arrest unlikely even remotely connected to the darknet child abuse forum PlayPen.
Dozens of darknet child abuse sites existed before PlayPen launched, such as those targeted by the FBI through the EgotisticalGiraffe exploit in 2013. The FBI identified Eric Eoin Marques as the owner of Freedom Hosting, a hosting infrastructure relied on by as as many as “half of all Tor sites.” Some of those sites, such as Lolita City, hosted hundreds of gigabytes of illegal pictures and videos—all prior to PlayPen’s launch as one of the most notorious child abuse forums on the darknet.
When the FBI arrested Grief, he told investigators that he “had a sexual interest in children.” Forensic investigators recovered images and at least one video from Grief’s computer. Grief also told investigators that he had created and uploaded a video to a site dedicated to the torture and mutilation of children and animals. In the video, the authorities wrote, Grief abused a rat. Investigators found that Grief abused a rat in numerous ways and then uploaded that video to a darknet abuse forum where he interacted with users and downloaded content for himself. Perhaps, content of other rat abuse?
On June 15, 2017, Grief pleaded guilty to Receiving Child Pornography in Interstate and Foreign Commerce. After Grief’s arrest, federal authorities kept him at a detention center where he may have made a permanent impact. During his time at the MDC, Grief repeatedly requested that the warden of the detention center allow him to keep stuffed animals with him in his cell. He claimed he needed them for religious purposes. After several denials, Grief filed a complaint stating that forbidding him to have or keep stuffed animals was a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. A district court judge dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim.
Later, in 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the “district court erred in deciding that Grief’s belief regarding stuffed animals could not plausibly constitute a religious belief, and that the district court therefore erred in dismissing Grief’s [Religious Freedom] claim. Grief has not made a statement regarding his stance on stuffed animals at the federal prison he will spend the remainder of his sentence, given that MDCs are not meant for holding prisoners once they have received a sentence.