News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

March 19, 2013

Investigators: Deputy had 40K child porn pics

Vigo County Sheriff Ewing says he’s angry, ‘shocked’ by violation of ‘public trust’

TERRE HAUTE — A Vigo County Sheriff’s deputy arrested on federal charges of distribution and possession of child pornography had gone through an extensive application process before being hired as a deputy in 2011.

Sheriff Greg Ewing said Monday afternoon that he is shocked and angry that Deputy James Edward Haley Jr., 31, of Terre Haute, allegedly violated public trust by sharing pornographic images and videos of children as young as the age of 5.

“I was shocked,” Ewing said. “I couldn’t believe it. And that quickly turned to anger. That someone in this office …”

Haley was arrested at his Terre Haute home on Friday, and made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court on Monday. He faces one count of possession of child pornography and one count of distributing child pornography.

Investigators said they found more than 40,000 images of child pornography on Haley’s personal laptop computer and a storage device.

Haley was among the first group of deputies hired after Ewing took office in January 2011. In an interview in his office Monday afternoon, Ewing said that Haley had experience with the West Terre Haute and Seelyville police departments before he applied for an opening with the sheriff’s department.

Ewing said the hiring process for each deputy candidate included background checks, a psychological evaluation, and interviews with friends and family about the candidate, prior to an application being submitted to the sheriff’s merit board for consideration.

Since his arrest, Haley has been placed on paid administrative leave from the sheriff’s department. The sheriff said he plans to call an emergency meeting of the sheriff’s merit board following an internal investigation. The merit board will be asked to proceed with terminating Haley, Ewing said.

Even though Haley has not been convicted of a crime, the sheriff said, he has violated the department’s code of conduct and the public trust.

The criminal complaint filed in federal court states that “Haley admitted downloading child pornography from the Internet via a file-sharing program, and storing the material in his laptop computer and a Maxtor external storage device. He admitted doing this for at least the past six months.”

Ewing said that Haley’s department-issued laptop computer has now been examined, and no pornographic images were found on it. All department computers undergo an annual check to make sure they are in compliance with an acceptable use policy, the sheriff said.

All of Haley’s department-issued equipment, including his patrol vehicle, have been seized by the department.

Ewing told the Tribune-Star that on Friday, he received a phone call from Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter about the arrest of Haley. Later Friday, Ewing learned that the case had been turned over to federal prosecutors, and that he was not allowed to comment about the case to the public until after Monday’s arraignment.

That allowed public speculation about the arrest and charges against an “unidentified deputy” to run wild, Ewing said, but it was important to preserve the integrity of the federal case.

A voluntary staff meeting of the sheriff’s department was planned for Monday evening to allow anyone within the department to talk about the Haley arrest.

“The deputies and those who worked with him are going through the same emotions,” Ewing said. “They’re shocked. They had no idea. And then they got mad.”

“We all wear this star as a symbol of public trust,” Ewing said of his badge, “and Mr. Haley violated that trust.”

The sheriff said that he is also heartsick about the children victimized by the pornography.

“Every one of those children is a victim,” Ewing said. “Those aren’t just pictures on a computer. And it’s infuriating that it’s a law enforcement officer” who is charged with downloading the images.

Haley appeared in federal court on Monday morning, accompanied by defense attorney Joseph Etling. Magistrate Craig McKee set a Thursday detention hearing to determine whether Haley would be given pretrial release or held pending trial.

If convicted, he faces a federal prison sentence of five to 20 years, a fine of up to $250,000, supervised release for life, and registration as a sexual predator.

At a news conference following Monday morning’s hearing, Vigo County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rob Roberts said that if the case against Haley had been filed under state law, the charges would have been class-C and class-D felonies. A class-C felony is punishable by two to eight years in prison, while a class-D felony has a sentencing range of six months to three years in prison. If Haley were to receive good-time credit in state prison, he would have been incarcerated at most for four years, Roberts said, while the federal sentence has a minimum of five years.

“Sometimes, the state penalties don’t seem like they are enough,” Roberts said, “and so we are thankful we are able to partner on this case with the U.S. Attorney.”

U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett commended the Indiana State Police for its investigation in the case and the county prosecutor’s office for the collaborative effort.

Hogsett said that an ISP investigator who connected to a computer through an online peer-to-peer sharing network was able to download more than 100 child pornography images from a computer that was eventually traced to Haley.

ISP Sgt. Joe Watts said the ISP Crimes Against Children unit works nearly around the clock to identify and apprehend those who prey on and exploit children.

“These men and women assigned to this elite unit are fiercely dedicated, highly trained and possess some of the most advanced computer systems and software to date,” Watts said, “all in an effort to do what was done here today — arrest persons who are and have the potential to pose a danger to our children.”

Hogsett said the investigation continues into the other participants in the peer-to-peer sharing network.

“Child exploitation cases are always significant for me as a parent, but as a member of Indiana’s law enforcement family, the allegations made in this case are particularly troubling,” Hogsett said.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

 

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