Court awaits verdict on child porn case after 6-day trial

After six days of testimony and the examination of copious amounts of evidence, a jury heard closing arguments from both parties regarding Richard Miller, a 67-year-old Kenai man charged with more than 100 counts of felony possession of child pornography.

 

On Tuesday at the Kenai Courthouse, Assistant District Attorney Kelly Lawson argued evidence used during the trial irrefutably proved ownership by Miller. Defense attorney Randall Cavanaugh argued his client didn't exclusively control the content of the evidence, and the prosecution left out evidence relating to the case.

The case stems from a Sept. 2007 investigation. Kenai Police Department Lt. David Ross sought to obtain search warrants for Miller's business, Wheels 4 Less, and residence after he interviewed a female minor who said she had discovered pictures of naked underage males on Miller's computer.

She said these images included pictures of her underage brother and that she believed Miller was exploiting young males and wasn't a person her brother should be residing with.

Police discovered a computer hard drive in a locker at Miller's business. The locker was labeled "Richard," which is also the name of Miller's son. At the defendant's residence police discovered compact discs and videos involving underage males participating in sexual acts.

Lawson reiterated the definition of child pornography provided to the jury by expert witness Investigator Derek DeGraff, who defined child erotic as simply nude photos, which may still have a "creep factor," but clarified child pornography involves posing directly in front of a camera and focuses on the genitals.

"Each one of the 220-plus pictures do qualify as porn," Lawson said. "And the 18 videos ... were very clearly porn."

Cavanaugh briefly mentioned that possessing nude photos of children necessarily isn't porn. Instead, he focused on other people's fingerprints found on the seized hard drive.

He said the fingerprints never presented as evidence undermined the fact people were staying at Miller's business and home, and they had access to the hard drive and discs. No fingerprints were found on the discs.

"The discs found in the dresser weren't hidden, and they had no fingerprints," Cavanaugh said. "There's no way of knowing when and who created (the discs). There's no proof showing (Miller) knew what was on those CDs.

"The investigation started out wrong and continued to go wrong. Police stayed focused on the original suspect's testimony. Even fingerprints could not deter them."

During the trial, the court heard recordings of Miller, who was incarcerated at the time, asking two young males under his care to dispose of certain materials on a Wheels 4 Less business computer.

Cavanaugh said Miller was "protecting his livelihood." The defendant was trying to keep his business afloat while in jail, he said.

Lawson said "too many calls" were placed in the middle of a child pornography investigation, and it discredits the notion that Miller was protecting his business.

"(Miller) knew the police were onto him," she said, "and the witness was told to erase everything but business records."

He also mentioned Miller's home computer. Police reported finding child porn on a home computer as well, but it wasn't presented as evidence. Cavanaugh argued the discovery was false, and the state otherwise would've used it during the trial.

The defense provided a list of individuals who visited Miller's residence and could've had access to the computers.

Lawson rebutted the evidence discovered on computers at both the business and the residence were owned by Miller. Computers owned by other individuals contained no child porn, she said.

It was clear that the visitors only stayed for a day or two, and it was unlikely they were responsible for downloading large amounts child porn, she said.

"It doesn't make sense that these individuals had time to download hundreds of pictures," she said.

Miller also admitted owning some of the videos with a sexual nature, she said.

"The defense would like you to believe it's a case of coincidences," Lawson said, "but it's actually more like a puzzle ... when put together it admits Miller's guilt."

The jurors are tasked with unanimously deciding verdicts for more than 100 charges. They may review any picture, video or witness testimony presented during trial.

A verdict is expected shortly.  

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at jerzy.shedlock@peninsulaclarion.com.

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