Citing it as an example of the dark side of cyberspace, the Los Angeles city attorney's office Wednesday filed its first criminal complaint accusing someone of downloading child pornography to his home computer from Internet bulletin boards.
David Luera, 41, of Sun Valley, is charged with one count of possessing child pornography, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in County Jail and a $1,000 fine. If convicted, he would also have to register as a sex offender.
Luera, a married salesman with no children, is free pending his arraignment on June 22 in Los Angeles Municipal Court. Neither Luera nor his attorney, Thomas Russell, could be reached for comment.
City Atty. James K. Hahn said in a prepared statement that the proliferation of child pornography and other obscene material available through the Internet--the fast-growing global computer network--is "becoming an increasing problem, since anyone--including children--with access to a home computer can obtain it."
"The information superhighway has opened up the world's knowledge and the ability to freely communicate to anyone with a computer," Hahn said. "Unfortunately, it also is giving pedophiles the ability to freely communicate and exchange child pornography."
Deputy City Atty. Deborah Sanchez, who is prosecuting the case, said Luera was identified in February during an unrelated investigation by the LAPD's Sexually Exploited Child Unit as a person suspected of having an interest in child pornography.
Los Angeles police detectives said that Luera had placed an ad in a magazine called Loving Alternatives seeking an "open relationship" with one or two couples interested in, among other things, "family nudity." Police said "family nudity" is a code phrase frequently used to signal an interest in child pornography.
Posing as a pedophile, Detective William Dworin responded to the ad and began to communicate by mail and later by telephone with Luera, who allegedly acknowledged his sexual interest in children. He allegedly told Dworin that he downloaded child pornography to his home computer from Internet bulletin boards.
Armed with a warrant, police searched Luera's home on March 16 and seized his computer, disks and several letters. After examining the memory hard disk in the computer, police said they found a collection of electronic photographs, including 36 that depicted child pornography and 45 depicting child erotica. Sanchez said the pornographic photographs were of boys under the age of 14 involved in such activities as masturbation and oral copulation.
Although several photographs were confiscated, they are considered one incident for filing purposes, Sanchez said.
She said the city attorney's office has no similar cases under review but officials expect to file more because of the ever-changing world of technology. Although such first-time offenses are prosecuted as misdemeanors, people convicted of possessing child pornography face felony charges--and a possible state prison sentence--if charged with possessing such material a second time.
"We want the public to know that even though sometimes information is hard to trace, we will be aggressive about it and we will prosecute," Sanchez said.