Fireman charged with child pornography

Posted 1/28/10

Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters set Leichner's bond at $100,000 at his initial court appearance Tuesday, court records show.

A preliminary hearing, to determine whether there is enough evidence for Leichner to be tried on the charges, has …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Fireman charged with child pornography


Obscene pictures reportedly found at fire departmentA now-suspended member of the Powell Volunteer Fire Department has been charged with 22 counts of possessing child pornography after allegedly using a Powell Fire Hall computer to access obscene images last month.Doug Leichner, 43, was arrested on the charges on Monday. Each count is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters set Leichner's bond at $100,000 at his initial court appearance Tuesday, court records show.

A preliminary hearing, to determine whether there is enough evidence for Leichner to be tried on the charges, has tentatively been scheduled for Feb. 1.

An investigation began on Dec. 29, 2009, when Powell Fire Chief Joey Darrah asked the Park County Sheriff's office to examine one of the department's computers for possible illegal content, court records say.

In an interview with the Tribune on Wednesday, Darrah said a fireman had approached him on the morning of Dec. 29 with concerns that Leichner might have been accessing child pornography on the night of Dec. 28.

A brief inspection of the radio room computer's files and Web-browsing history raised enough concern in Darrah's mind that he felt law enforcement needed to be called.

“The Web site names, some of them, were very suspicious,” he said.

“I feel like I had an obligation to the fire department and the public to have it checked,” Darrah said. “I didn't feel like we should be doing an internal investigation on something like that.

“We took care of the problem immediately. It didn't wait,” he added.

On Jan. 9, Lt. Dave Patterson of the sheriff's office conducted an electronic search of the fire hall's computer and found more than 7,000 images of various types of pornography, the affidavit says.

After sorting through about a third of the images in search of obvious child pornography, Patterson identified more than 110 apparent illegal images on the computer, the document says.

Patterson later photographed 22 of those explicit images as evidence. According to his account, most of those sexual images depicted children between the ages of 8 and 14. Four pornographic images depicted children that appeared to be between 6 and 8 years old, Patterson wrote.

The images had been accessed on the night of Dec. 28, at a time when Leichner reportedly was seen using the radio room computer, the document says.

“I advised Chief Darrah that there was a serious problem that needed to be addressed, both criminally and on an administrative level, with the use of the computer for illegal purposes,” wrote Patterson. “Chief Darrah stated he understood and that their organization would cooperate as needed.”

Darrah said Leichner was placed on suspension when the illegal content was found on the computer.

On Jan. 15, Patterson interviewed Leichner.

After prodding from Patterson, Leichner allegedly admitted that he had accessed a variety of pornographic content on the fire department's computer. However, he said he did not access child pornography, which he said was wrong, the document says.

According to the affidavit, Leichner told Patterson that some pornographic sites have pop-up windows that automatically pull up many unwanted images. Leichner said it was possible that some illegal content had inadvertently been downloaded to the computer without him knowing or seeing it, the document says.

Leichner, a longtime Powell Tribune employee, was discharged in June for reasons unrelated to the criminal allegations in the case, said Publisher Dave Bonner.

Leichner was appointed a public defender on Tuesday.

Fire Chief Darrah said the department is now looking at how it will limit computer access in the future, including adding password protection for all use.

“We didn't have any reason to believe that that was going to be a problem before,” he said, adding, “I never thought in a million years that this could be an issue.”

He described Leichner's alleged actions as a betrayal of the department's trust, saying it “took a lot of audacity” to use the fire hall's computer to access “that (crap).”

The computer's Internet access was intended to allow the department to submit reports to the state fire marshal's office and for training purpose, Darrah said. He said some firefighters occasionally used the computer for personal use, such as to purchase hunting licenses, but he said to his knowledge, personal use was not common.

Darrah said the other members of the fire department were surprised and upset when they learned of the charges against Leichner earlier this week.

“It doesn't change the fact that we're a good bunch of guys,” said Darrah.