BANGOR (AP) – When it takes up two cases from Maine this month, a federal appeals court will wrestle with cutting-edge issues: regulation of Internet content and the clash between immigrant cultures and the U.S. legal system.

The case of a Norway man convicted of possessing child pornography will be heard for the second time in three years after the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston returns from its summer recess Wednesday.

David Hilton’s arrest in 1997 began a six-year legal saga that included appeals by prosecution and defense attorneys to the 1st Circuit Court and an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hilton, 52, characterized himself as an anti-pornography crusader but federal officials questioned his motives. He was charged after he continued to collect material despite warnings that it was illegal to do so. He was sentenced to 40 months in prison in December 2000 for possession of child pornography transported to his computer over the Internet.

During Hilton’s 2000 trial in U.S. District Court in Portland, federal agents testified that investigators found 2,000 to 3,000 pornographic images on Hilton’s Zip drives, backup tapes and computer itself.

Hilton’s lawyer argued that the 1996 statute under which he was charged was unconstitutionally vague. Judge Gene Carter agreed, but his ruling was overturned by the 1st Circuit Court in early 1999, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider the case.

Last year, however, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that restrictions on images of sexual activity involving children in the Child Pornography Protection Act were so vague as to be unconstitutional.

After the U.S. District Court granted Hilton’s motion to have his sentence set aside, the prosecution appealed to the 1st Circuit Court. Hilton was released from prison in early July.

The appeals court also will hear the appeal of a Somali refugee from Portland who was sentenced to one year of probation in February in Maine’s first case involving the stimulant khat.

Abdigani Hussein, 31, faces potential deportation because of the felony conviction, according to his lawyer, Joseph Groff, who had argued that khat is used in Africa the way coffee is used in the United States.

Khat contains cathinone, which is chemically similar to amphetamines. Federal drug enforcement agencies have included cathinone on the list of controlled substances since 1993.

Groff argued that there was not sufficient evidence for the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Hussein knew that he possessed a controlled substance. Groff also argued the government has not made it sufficiently clear that possession of khat is a criminal offense to satisfy constitutional due-process standards.

Other Maine cases before the 1st Circuit include:

• The appeal of a Biddeford man serving a life sentence for providing cocaine that killed a woman.

• The appeal by prosecutors of the dismissal of a case against Willard Hartsock, 41, of Greenville Junction, who was indicted last year on one count of possession of firearms by a person previously convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

The case was dismissed because Hartsock pleaded guilty to the 1992 charge without consulting a lawyer. Because court records have been destroyed, it could not be proved that Hartsock waived his right to an attorney.

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Mitchell Ward, 41, was convicted by a jury in 2001 of giving cocaine to Loretta Fortin, 39, of Biddeford in 1999. He also was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in prison for illegal acquisition and distribution of OxyContin.

In his appeal, Ward said the judge should have suppressed the testimony of one of Ward’s fellow inmates at the Cumberland County Jail, where he was held while awaiting trial.



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