Sheriff’s office: Lamphier under investigation for alleged possession of child porn | TheUnion.com

Sheriff’s office: Lamphier under investigation for alleged possession of child porn

Keri Brenner and Liz Kellar
Staff Writers

Nevada County District 3 Supervisor Terry Lamphier is the subject of a criminal investigation pertaining to the alleged possession of child pornography on county-owned computers, according to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.

In response to a joint public records request filed by The Union and YubaNet.com, sheriff’s office officials Tuesday night released an Internet search history and webpage view history that was allegedly discovered on Lamphier’s computer.

That history reportedly included websites with inappropriate photographs depicting girls between 6-10 years of age.

Royal, Undersheriff Joe Salivar, Nevada County Counsel Alison Barratt-Green, Assistant CEO Alison Lehman, and Chief Information Officer Steve Monaghan spoke to reporters from The Union, YubaNet and KNCO regarding the investigation and what allegedly was discovered on Lamphier’s office desktop, which led to a search warrant being executed on his residence and vehicle Friday.

They declined to comment on what, if anything, was seized during the search warrant, since that was sealed by the court at the request of the Sheriff’s Office; evidence potentially could include Lamphier’s laptop.

In response to the records request, Monaghan provided five weeks of documentation showing any webpage clicks on Lamphier’s computer.

Monaghan said he ran an Internet monitoring and tracking program that tracks every click. He looked at five weeks, one week at a time, and produced five reports, one for each week, that lists every URL visited.

“He can’t go anywhere that it’s not logged in,” Monaghan said.

He also provided just one day of search history, due to some technical difficulties. He did, however, agree to provide — as soon as possible — several more random days during the past month in order to establish a search history pattern.

The one day of search history — Oct. 13 — included Bing searches for Russian photos, “young Lollitas (sic),” pre-teen girls,” “nude,” “daughter,” “candydoll,” and “I love tweens.”

Of the five weeks of records provided, only one week — Oct. 13-17, which included the day of search history — showed visits to “unacceptable” sites characterized as pornography. That one week showed 2,491 visits, 36 percent of the total visits logged, with a little more than two hours of download time.

Anonymous letter sparked investigation

“This was not politically motivated,” Royal said, adding that the timeline of events was not a circumstance he could control.

“We were concerned about destruction of evidence,” Royal said in explaining the need to act on the search warrant just a week before the elections. “We needed to protect and secure the evidence.”

“We tried to execute the search in a low-key manner,” he said, saying the news leaked after a Grass Valley Public Works staff member, at the scene because of an earlier report of a sewage back-up, contacted city staff.

Lehman said that an anonymous tipster came in to the Board of Supervisors’ office and left a letter on the counter last Tuesday.

The person could not be identified, she said, although someone was seen exiting the office at that time.

The letter was addressed to Lamphier, she said, and was screened by a staff member as a matter of course.

When the staff member saw the contents, which reportedly directed the reader to look at Lamphier’s Internet activity and mentioned inappropriate use of county equipment, the letter was turned over to Lehman.

Lehman declined to reveal the exact contents of the letter.

“I notified the Sheriff’s Office and told staff to have Terry come see me,” Lehman said, adding that the letter was provided to Lamphier on Wednesday.

Lehman met with Lamphier on Thursday and subsequently recontacted the Sheriff’s Office, sparking the criminal investigation, she said.

She declined to provide details on her conversation with Lamphier, and emphasized that she did not know the inappropriate activity on the computer was child porn until Thursday.

“We found images of underage children after we secured his workplace computer,” Royal said. “There were many, many files.”

Royal said his staff downloaded the files and gave copies to detectives from the Major Crimes Unit, which is handling the investigation.

Royal characterized the images as being of “very young girls.”

“Candidly, I would guess they were 6 to 10 years old,” he said, refusing to provide any more specifics. However, he did refer to the photos as child pornography.

Asked how many photos there were, Salivar said, “There’s no way to tell.”

They just took a sample and tried to see a pattern, he said.

Salivar said they will be sending the files to the Sacramento Valley High Tech Crimes Task Force to review and analyze and quantify the extent of the photo collection.

Royal said the investigation could take weeks and added that he will be meeting with the FBI Wednesday regarding whether the case would remain local or be taken by the feds.

He said charges of possession of child porn could range from a misdemeanor to “a serious felony.”

Discussing what charges could be recommended would be speculative, Barratt-Green said, adding, “This is still very much an active investigation.”

“In my 16 years with Nevada County, we’ve never before had a case like this with a public official,” Royal said.

Lamphier is still considered an elected official and still able by law to access his office if he chooses, since he has not been arrested or charged in connection with the investigation, Barratt-Green said. Lamphier did not attend Tuesday’s board meeting and has not returned multiple phone calls for comment.

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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