Los Banos man to stand trial over child pornography

11/26/2013 6:34 PM

11/26/2013 6:35 PM

A Los Banos man has been ordered to stand trial in connection with possession of what a Merced County judge said was a “huge amount of child pornography.”

Thomas Edwards, 49, has pleaded not guilty to a single felony count of child pornography possession. He faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison if convicted, the Merced County District Attorney’s Office said.

Judge Mark V. Bacciarini bound Edwards over for trial Monday following a preliminary hearing.

Edwards’ attorney, Jeffrey Tenenbaum, said his client intends to the fight the charges and is “looking forward to his day in court.” During Monday’s hearing, Tenenbaum questioned whether it is possible for Edwards to have inadvertently downloaded the illicit images.

Detective John Mussotto of the Merced County Sheriff’s Department testified that Edwards told investigators he was “aware he had downloaded child pornography.” The investigator said Edwards has consistently denied intentionally collecting the explicit videos.

Mussotto said the computer program Edwards used “only does what you tell it to do,” and the program’s default settings would not create the file-folder names found on Edwards’ hard drive. Mussotto noted that investigators found folders on the computer containing illegal images of children exclusively.

Edwards said Monday that he works as an assistant engineer and details sheet metal, which the judge noted requires a “certain level of computer sophistication.”

“That undermines the argument that this (child pornography) just mysteriously appeared on his computer,” Bacciarini said.

Michael McKinney, a Merced County deputy district attorney, said investigators from the Merced County Sheriff’s Department’s High-Tech Crimes Unit found dozens of graphic videos of children on Edwards’ personal computer at his home in Los Banos. McKinney said those videos were downloaded between March 22 and Aug. 9 of 2011.

“It involves children of a very young age, and they are very clearly children,” McKinney said of the images.

Bacciarini ordered Edwards to return to court Dec. 19 for arraignment. Edwards remains free on bond.

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