Nobody has clean hands in the Lamphier child porn case

Former Supervisor Terry Lamphier’s no contest plea to a single charge of misuse of country property by a public official–accessing child pornography on a county computer–caps a 1.5-year law-and-order drama that did little to instill confidence in our local criminal justice system.

Lamphier was  facing three misdemeanor charges of possessing child porn after sheriff’s deputies, acting on a tip, swooped down on Lamphier’s residence in 2014 with enough vehicles and manpower to alert half the town just days before Grass Valley residents decided who they wanted on the city council. He was a candidate for the council.

Sheriff’s investigators described finding images of “very young girls” on Lamphier’s county-issued computer, charges that–if true–could have sent him to county jail for a year on each count, and required him to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

Lamphier denied knowingly download such material, and his attorney, Stephen Munkelt, demanded the right for their forensic expert to examine the contents of the computer’s hard drive. This led to numerous delays because the district attorney’s office couldn’t or wouldn’t produce a forensic copy of the drive that could be reviewed.

Apparently the DA wasn’t impressed with the case Sheriff Keith Royal handed him, because prosecutors offered Lamphier two plea deals, which were rejected, before agreeing to Munkelt’s proposal.

Munkelt insisted the case was overcharged to begin with. “I believe that if the evidence had been thoroughly understood at the outset, the original charges would never have been brought,” he said.

Deputy DA Jennifer Ow had a different take: “The people were prepared to go to trial on the charges…and we thought we had a reasonable likelihood of conviction.” That would explain why Lamphier was offered two plea deals, and the judge ignored Ow’s sentencing recommendation.

Ow wanted Lamphier to get two years probation, with search and seizure conditions that included electronics. Judge Linda Sloven gave Lamphier a year’s probation with no search and seizure restrictions.

So there you have it: A highly publicized Eliot Ness-style take down just before an election, a drawn-out process in which the prosecution was slow to produce evidence for the defense and nobody wanted to talk about the county’s computer security, and finally a plea deal that leaves a black mark on Lamphier’s record.

 

 

 

 

 

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