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United States of America v. Gerrett Conover

October 10, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
GERRETT CONOVER



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joel Schneider United States Magistrate Judge

OPINION

Defendant is charged in a criminal complaint with the receipt and distribution of child pornography. This matter is before the Court on defendant's request for bail pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f). For the reasons to be discussed, defendant's request is DENIED and he is ORDERED detained. This Opinion will set forth the Court's written findings of fact and a written statement of the reasons for the detention as required by 18 U.S.C. § 3142(i). Background

In April 2012, during the course of a child exploitation investigation initiated by the Department of Homeland Security in Boston, law enforcement officers discovered numerous Yahoo messenger chats from one of the laptops used by the main target ("RD") of the investigation. See Complaint ¶2. To date the investigation has resulted in at least 45 arrests and the identification of approximately 151 children who were victimized by the various individuals involved. Id. ¶4. RD's computer chat logs revealed communications with an individual using the name "petersneaks." Id. ¶2. RD and "petersneaks" discussed their "mutual sexual attraction to children, their desire to perform oral sex on children and comments of a sexual nature pertaining to files that they had been sharing." Id. ¶2. When RD was interviewed in May, 2012, he indicated that he traded child pornography with "petersneaks" for a period of two to three years. Id. ¶5. The Boston agents identified defendant as "petersneaks" and "entered a lookout" into a Homeland Security Investigations database. Id.

¶11. The investigation was then transferred to local law enforcement personnel. Id. ¶8.

On September 16, 2012, defendant was arrested at the Ogdensburg, New York port of entry, coming into the United States from Canada. Defendant's laptop was searched and it revealed the presence of child pornography. Id. ¶12. Defendant admitted the laptop belonged to him and that he knew about the video found on his computer. Id. ¶13. Defendant was charged in the Northern District of New York with Importation or Transportation of Obscene Matters, in violation of Title 18 U.S.C. § 1462, and possession of child pornography, in violation of Title 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B). Defendant was released on bail in New York on September 18, 2012.

On September 17, 2012, New Jersey search warrants were executed on defendant's home in Woolwich Township, New Jersey. A substantial amount of evidence was seized during the search, including computers, hard drives, cell phones, slides, DVD's, cameras, and VHS and 8mm tapes. Agents also seized boy scout paraphernalia, such as a uniform, photographs, badges and t-shirts.

On September 20, 2012, this Court signed a criminal complaint charging defendant with receipt and distribution of child pornography pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2)(A) and 2. As of that date the investigators only reviewed a disk containing 19 images and one video identified in the chat between RD and "petersneaks" from files retrieved from RD's laptop. Id. ¶9. The video was sent by defendant to RD, was dated November 6, 2010, and depicts child pornography involving a pre-pubescent boy approximately 10 years old. Id. ¶9. As will be discussed in more detail, defendant's chat logs contain explicit references to his sexual contact with and prurient interest in young boys.

Defendant appeared for his initial appearance on September 21, 2012. At the request of defense counsel, a detention hearing was scheduled on September 27, 2012. In the meantime, an Order of Temporary Detention was entered. Defendant's detention hearing was held on September 27, 2012. At the hearing the Court issued its Oral Opinion denying defendant's request for bail. The Court ruled that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant as required and the safety of any other person and the community.

Although the government did not have much time to review defendant's seized belongings before his bail hearing, its search was revealing. The search uncovered thousands of photographs of child pornography. The images are graphic, and show, inter alia, digital penetration of pre-pubescent boys. The government also retrieved some of defendant's chat logs from 2010 and 2012. In the chats defendant professes his interest in young boys and describes his sexual encounters. Defendant described a "close relationship" he had with a Boy Scout when the boy was 10 to 17 years of age. The logs indicate that defendant left the Boy Scouts about eight years ago because he realized he loved the boy and other boys did not mean anything to him. Defendant's chat stated that he last saw the boy about a year ago. Id. ¶17. When asked in the chat if he had any other boys, defendant replied "[a] few ... but just as fun times." As noted, amongst the items seized from defendant's home was evidence indicating that he participated as a leader in the Boy Scouts from approximately 1990 though 2000. Id. ¶18.

Defendant is single, 47 years old, lives alone, and has no children. Defendant has no criminal record. Defendant is a United States Citizen with a valid passport. Defendant has extensive international travel experience, traveling to the Netherlands, Germany, Russia, Italy, Costa Rica, Belgium, Venezuela, Spain and Canada. Defendant has been employed by Radiosystems, a company that manufactures audio equipment for radio broadcasting companies, for the past 25 years. Defendant's current title is Vice- President, General Manager. Defendant earns an annual income of approximately $110,000 and has substantial assets. Defendant's responsibilities include overseeing the Information Technology Department within his company. Defendant has extensive knowledge regarding the operation of computers and networks and has been described as invaluable to the operation of Radiosystems.

Defendant's boss and owner of Radiosystems, Daniel Braverman, testified at the detention hearing. Braverman has known defendant for 25-30 years and never suspected he had a sexual interest in children or that he collected or viewed child pornography. He described defendant as essential to his eighteen (18) employee company. He acknowledges defendant's computer expertise and believes it would be very difficult for the company to conduct business if defendant is detained. If he is released, Braverman will allow defendant to keep his job, but Radiosystems will take all reasonable precautions to assure that defendant does not access illegal sites on the internet.

Defendant proposes that he be released on bail into the custody of his elderly father, who has agreed to relocate from Florida to New Jersey. Defendant proposes that he be permitted to work at Radiosystems with electronic monitoring. Radiosystems agrees to permit Pretrial Services to monitor defendant's work computer.

Discussion

The applicable law regarding defendant's bail decision is not in dispute. A defendant must be released on bail on the least restrictive condition or combination of conditions that will reasonably assure his/her appearance and the safety of the community. See 18 U.S.C. § 3142(c)(1)(B). However, defendant must be detained if the Court determines that "no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of any other person and community." 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(1). If the government moves for detention on the basis of danger to the community, it must prove this by clear and convincing evidence. If the government or court believes detention is appropriate because there is a risk of flight, ...


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