Skip to comments.Evidence missing in Karr child porn case
Posted on 09/21/2006 4:52:58 AM PDT by abb
SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Efforts to prosecute one-time JonBenet Ramsey murder suspect John Mark Karr on child pornography charges should not be jeopardized even though his computer that allegedly contained the images was lost, Sonoma County authorities said Wednesday.
Authorities seized the computer from Karr's home in 2001 and copied the entire hard drive onto paper, including the five illicit images, said Sheriff's Department Lt. Dave Edmonds. He said authorities looked for the computer for the past two weeks, but have had no luck.
"We did an exhaustive search. We have probably hundreds of thousands of evidence items and we're certain at this point, through a couple of weeks of effort, that it's not misplaced inside of our property unit," he said.
Karr, 41, has maintained his innocence in the case.
On Tuesday, prosecutors offered Karr a plea deal that would waive three of the five child pornography possession charges against Karr if he pleaded guilty to the two remaining ones. Karr would get credit for time served, would be placed on probation for three years and would be required to register as a sex offender.
"I wonder if that was the impetus of the offer today," Karr's attorney, Robert Amparan, said. "It seems like a pretty embarrassing mistake for the Sheriff's Department to admit."
Assistant District Attorney Larry Scoufos denied any connection between the missing computer and the plea deal offer.
Karr first made headlines when he was arrested last month after making phone calls and writing e-mails suggesting he killed JonBenet, a six-year-old beauty queen, in her Boulder, Colo., home in 1996.
He was returned to the U.S. from Thailand only to have the Ramsey case collapse when DNA failed to connect him to the crime.
Very interesting. Well, do we buy him a champagne flight back to Thailand?
I knew something was up two days ago when they offered him a plea deal first thing...
Great. He gets picked up over there for suspicion of abuse (was that the charge?), confesses to JBR's murder so the US Gov't pulls strings and treats him to a free flight back. The DA realizes they've been conned and drops charges, send to to California where now they'll end up freeing him among the populace (and children!) yet again.
Not the finest hour for America.
I would say he played the system (and the DriveBy Media who got snookered, too) like sheet music...
Authorities seized the computer from Karr's home in 2001 and copied the entire hard drive onto paper, including the five illicit images, said Sheriff's Department Lt. Dave Edmonds.
How do you "copy the entire hard drive onto paper"?
Wonder where the missing porn is ... someone's collection?
Extra small font?
The chain of custody for the evidence is broken. He'll walk.
By Using a Xerox machine, silly!........
I'm sure displaying porn in hex would go over big with the jury.
Karr computer missing
By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
On the day prosecutors offered John Mark Karr a plea bargain, Sonoma County sheriff's officials Tuesday acknowledged they lost a computer containing images used to charge Karr with possessing child pornography.
A sheriff's spokesman said the computer - one of at least two seized from Karr's Petaluma residence in April 2001 - may have been missing since early 2002.
Karr gained national notoriety last month when he admitted, apparently falsely, on television in Bangkok, Thailand, that he had been present at the 1996 slaying of 6-year-old beauty pageant contestant JonBenet Ramsey in Boulder, Colo.
"It appears that in the move from the old office to the new building, it was either lost or accidentally purged. But, no, we have not been able to locate it," Sheriff's Lt. Dave Edmonds said Tuesday.
Printed copies of five images, which purportedly show children in sexual situations and a detailed report of the hard drive contents were retained, Edmonds said.
"The loss of the original media is a mistake. It was an error, definitely," he said. "It is unfortunate, but we don't think that significantly changes the provability of the case."
Assistant District Attorney Larry Scoufos said the loss of the original source of the evidence will not critically damage the case.
"We think we will still get in the evidence that we need," he said. "We feel we have sufficient evidence to still link the images to Mr. Karr."
Karr's attorneys, who learned of the missing evidence from a reporter, were shocked at the revelation. They said they are exploring the ramifications of the problem and are considering what steps to take before hearings scheduled for next week.
"I wonder if that was the impetus of the offer today," said Rob Amparán, one of three San Francisco lawyers representing Karr in the misdemeanor case. "It seems like a pretty embarrassing mistake for the Sheriff's Department to admit."
Scoufos, however, said there was no connection between the two developments.
Earlier in the day, prosecutors offered Karr a plea bargain with fewer charges that would require no further jail time but would force him to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Amparán said he would discuss the offer with his client, but he insisted Karr is innocent of the child porn possession charges filed in 2001.
"We feel very confident we will ultimately be successful in exonerating him of these charges," he said.
Amparán said the loss of the computer could be just as damaging for the defense as for the prosecution. He said he'd hoped a defense expert in forensic computer examination would be able to use the computer to find evidence in Karr's favor.
"That computer had evidence that Mr. Karr was not only not guilty, but innocent of the charges," he said. He declined to be more specific until he consulted with his computer expert.
Other attorneys said the defense could move to exclude the evidence - the crux of the prosecution's case - because the defense cannot independently examine the source of the evidence.
Karr, briefly a substitute teacher in Petaluma and Napa in 2001, is facing five misdemeanor counts of possessing pornographic images of children, for which he served more than five months in the Sonoma County Jail in 2001.
Karr was arrested Aug. 16 in Thailand and brought back to the United States amid worldwide media coverage after his extraordinary admission in the Ramsey slaying.
After Colorado authorities said DNA evidence cleared Karr in the case, Sonoma County took the unusual step of extraditing Karr to face the 5-year-old misdemeanor charges.
In court Tuesday, prosecutor Joan Risse announced she was extending a plea offer for Karr: The District Attorney's Office would drop three of the charges if Karr admitted to two others. He would not be required to serve more time in custody, but prosecutors would seek three years of formal probation.
The plea agreement also would require Karr to register under the state's Megan's Law as a sex offender.
The missing computer raises serious questions about the viability of the prosecution's case, a former prosecutor said.
"It's not necessarily a case-killer, but it will make things difficult for the district attorney," said Roy Miller, a former Lake County prosecutor who received FBI training in forensic computer examination.
"If this case goes to trial, they're going to have to tell the jury they screwed up the most basic thing in this case - the computer evidence," said Miller, now a defense lawyer. "It's like showing up for a murder trial and saying, 'Oops, I lost the bloody knife, I lost the smoking gun.' It's not necessarily fatal, but it is a problem."
It was not immediately clear Tuesday precisely when authorities discovered the computer was missing. But during a court proceeding three weeks ago, on Aug. 29, prosecutor Risse told Judge Cerena Wong that the investigation had been reopened and that experts were examining the computer.
Her statement came as the District Attorney's Office was opposing efforts by The Press Democrat to unseal the 2001 search warrant that had led to the child porn charges.
"A lot of what's in the search warrant relates to the forensic computer exam; and that's being redone because there is newer equipment and newer procedures that we can obtain more off of the computer than we could back in 2001," Risse said in court.
"I'm really not sure if that's going to bring forth more material. So there is an ongoing investigation going on relative to the computer," she said, according to the official transcript.
Wong refused to unseal the court records, citing in part, the "reopened" investigation.
The Sheriff's Department moved into its new building in April 2002 - a year after Karr's arrest and about three months after original trial dates in Karr's case. Karr failed to appear for a hearing in October 2001 and a warrant was issued in December of that year.
Edmonds said the computer may have been accidentally thrown out with more than 40,000 other items of evidence purged from sheriff's storage when the department changed buildings. Each year, about 20,000 items of evidence are stored for active criminal cases.
Miller said Karr's defense may be able to argue for the suppression of the computer evidence because they will not have the opportunity to examine its original source.
The prosecution, including law enforcement and the District Attorney's Office, has an obligation until a case is resolved to retain evidence that will be used against a defendant in court, he said.
Edmonds said detectives haven't found evidence on Karr's other computers.
A laptop returned with Karr from Thailand is in the hands of federal authorities, and Sonoma County detectives are working with them to determine whether there may be any evidentiary value in it, Edmonds said.
Also Tuesday, Wong set Karr's bail at $200,000, saying he is a flight risk. Such a bail would require $20,000 in cash bond and $200,000 in collateral.
Amparán said it was unlikely Karr could raise the bond to secure his release.
Wong also confirmed the trial date for Oct. 2 and ordered a panel of prospective jurors to be called to the courtroom.
"Misplaced" meaning the computer is now in some cop's home.
If nothing else a team of drs should determine if its safe to let this pervert walk the streets. Maybe somehow he can be committed to a mental hospital. He certainly should not be allowed near children and he has delusions. It isnt safe to have him out there fantasing about little girls and dead little girls at that. Who knows if he will try to make his diviant fantasies come true on some other innocent child.
If Kreepy Karr has an attorney even marginally competent, they move for dismissal of all charges based upon the broken evidence chain, they ask for a court order compelling the sheriff's department to either produce the computer that was seized or *compensate* Karr for the loss of his personal property.
Odds are 2 out of 3 the defense gets everything they ask for, and we'll be treated to Karr popping up on all the talk shows plus "Entertainment Tonight".
Sounds like the California case is falling apart about as badly as the Colorado case did.
And after that fiasco with the Duke LaCrosse players, we apparently need to start reigning in 'overly aggressive' DA's and holding them liable for their actions.
But of course, that computer is long gone. borrowed??????
The feds have his laptop from Thailand that they are going through. Federal charges may be pending depending on what and if they found anything on his Thailand laptop. The problem is the Feds probably figured he would be tied up for sometime in California with the 5 child porn charges and that they would have more time to investigate what they may find on his Thailand laptop. (What is on his Thai laptop might lead them to children that Karr has molested overseas or photos of child porn victims that he may have actually photographed.)
Anything they find on his Thailand laptop would fall under the federal PROTECT Act. (google it if you don't know what it is)
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