TERRE HAUTE —
Child exploitation charges are expected to be filed against a Terre Haute man who was arrested Thursday after a police investigation revealed thousands of child pornography images and hundreds of videos on his personal computer.
Emery Norton, 25, will appear Monday in Vigo Superior Court 5 on preliminary charges of child exploitation, a class-C felony, and possession of child pornography, a class-D felony.
He was arrested at his residence in the 2500 block of North 17th Street after the Crimes Against Children Unit of the Indiana State Police performed a forensic examination of Norton’s computer as part of a investigation into online activity.
“Thousands of images, and hundreds of videos, of children ranging in age from newborn to 13, were found on his computer,” according to Sgt. Joe Watts of the Indiana State Police.
The investigation of Norton began a couple of weeks ago when detectives with ISP’s Crimes Against Children Unit found that peer-to-peer pornographic images were being viewed and disseminated via a computer traced to Norton’s residence in an apartment house in the 1300 block of Liberty Avenue.
When police arrived at that location Thursday morning to serve a search warrant, however, they found that Norton had recently moved. Police then received a tip as to Norton’s current residence, and located him at a house on North 17th Street.
Watts said the investigation was a cooperative effort among the ISP’s CAC Unit, Terre Haute Police Department, Vigo County Sheriff’s Department, Bloomington Police Department and the FBI. The ISP unit brought its mobile forensics vehicle to the scene as part of the investigation. Representatives from local news media were allowed to document portions of the on-scene activity by police.
ISP First Sgt. John Richards told the Tribune-Star that use of the mobile forensics vehicle allows police to remove all computer equipment from a location and examine it on the spot to determine if any evidence might be on an electronic device. If no evidence is located on a computer or storage device, that item can be returned to the property owner, rather than being confiscated as part of the investigation.
“This helps us in a huge way to allow us not to have to take everything,” Richards said, noting that many homes today have multiple computers, but only one computer might be used for criminal activity. “We can pull computers out and if it has nothing to do with the case, we can leave it.”
Richards said the mobile forensics unit is also used by the cybercrimes unit, so it can also be employed in white collar crime investigations and any other crime where digital media is involved.
Watts said the FBI recently released information stating that during the past decade, the prevalence of child pornography has grown internationally as availability to the Internet has grown, leading to a 2,500-percent increase in arrests related to child pornography.
During 2012, the ISP Crimes Against Children Unit received 1,580 cybertips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Those tips were distributed to local agencies for investigation. The five detectives assigned to the unit then conducted or assisted in the service of more than 75 state and federal search warrants, resulting in 77 individuals criminally charged in federal or state courts. In 2012, the unit performed 105 forensic previews such as Thursday’s investigation.
The CAC has conducted more than 113 training sessions reaching more than 14,100 professionals involved in criminal investigations.
Watts said the unit is an important part of criminal investigation because the number of child pornography incidents appears to be on the increase.
“Officers must stay on top of how people hide files, how they store and transmit images, and how they produce the child porn,” Watts said. “The detective in the forensics unit today is utilizing new software and training that he just received.”
Anyone wanting to provide a tip about child pornography can contact the Indiana State Police at 765-653-4114, or go online to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at www.missingkids.com.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.