Francey Hakes, Former State & Federal Prosecutor

Episode 23

Full Access to Francey Hakes, Former State & Federal Prosecutor
Episode Summary

The relationship between prosecutors and law enforcement is crucial to success. Nothing goes perfectly in a criminal trial; something crazy always happens. Trust is important so that whatever happens can be corrected in the run-up or during the trial itself. While law enforcement and prosecutors sometimes disagree, they are on the same team.

When a relationship is developed between prosecutors and local and federal agents, they feel like they can call on each other for advice. If an agent is on a scene or going to be involved in an arrest and something unusual happens, the agent can call a prosecutor and ask how that would impact the prosecution later. That collaboration is critical on so many levels.

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Show Notes

[01:06] Profile of this episode’s guest: Francey Hakes, Child Protection and National Security Consultant – Francey Hakes Consulting National Security & Child Advocacy

  • Francey was a prosecutor for over 15 years, serving as an assistant district attorney specializing in crimes against children
  • Served as an Assistant United States Attorney specializing in technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation cases
  • Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, with a Global Policy Studies Certificate, from the University of Georgia. 
  • Currently is the CEO of her own consulting firm, providing advice and counsel to law enforcement, governments, industry, and others on the protection of children
  • She is the host of the Best Case Worst Case podcast and is a consulting producer for XG Productions


[04:37] What is XG Productions? 


[14:16] Francey’s experience with digital forensics in cases and podcasts 

  • All of Francey’s child exploitation cases used digital forensics
  • Some now consider digital forensics to be more important than DNA
  • Many cases that Francey researched had been adjudicated some time ago and didn’t involve digital forensics
  • Has spoken at the Dallas Crimes Against Children Conference multiple times


[20:53] Serving as Assistant District Attorney

  • Francey knew from the age of five that she wanted to be a prosecutor because of watching reruns of Perry Mason with her dad
  • Was the third-ever woman Assistant DA in her district
  • Once she understood the difference between state and federal prosecution, her goal shifted to becoming a federal prosecutor because the district is broader


[28:22] The change in technology from 2002 to 2012 and the impact on prosecutions

  • Before the internet, the Postal Service Inspection Service had largely eradicated child pornography
  • In the early 2000s, the Supreme Court said that the prosecutors had to prove that the children depicted in images were real
  • This change added a complicating factor which caused backlogs for computer forensics


[36:03] The prosecution of James Huskey

  • At the time, Francey was the Project Safe Childhood Coordinator in the U.S. Attorney’s Office
  • A group in New Zealand was teaching each other how to become good offenders by using encryptions and changing file names so that they couldn’t be identified later. It was in this group that the images were first seen
  • In the images, there was a United States plug, so the case information was given to the FBI
  • Law enforcement agencies all over the world worked together to find the child and the offender


[46:58] More resources are needed to investigate CSAM cases

  • The technology that was developed to find the digital footprints of images and locate the computer involved was a multi-step process involving multiple subpoenas and resources
  • Law enforcement receives so many cyber tips that it’s often physically impossible for the detectives to keep up
  • The overwhelming number of cases means that some need to be prioritized. What distinguishes a case as a higher priority than another?


[59:17] Keeping up with the technology criminals use

  • Francey spent time with people working in digital forensics so that she could fully understand what they were doing
  • Prosecutors need to understand the technology so they can educate the jury about the facts of the case
  • Understanding technology makes for a better presentation of the facts


[01:06:00] Francey’s role as the first-ever National Coordinator for Child Exploitation, Prevention, and Interdiction

  • In the PROTECT our Children Act of 2008, Congress decided that the U.S. government needed someone who could look at all the issues facing prosecutors, detectives, child advocacy centers, and all those trying to serve children being abused and try to solve problems.
  • Attorney General Eric Holder insisted that Francey be bold in her role
  • The U.S. became the first country to develop a national strategy to address child exploitation

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