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Feb. 5, 2009

COURT ISSUES NO BOND ORDER FOR HOUSTON AREA MAN INDICTED FOR POSSESSING CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

(HOUSTON) – United States Magistrate Judge Calvin Botley has ordered Keith Nathan Symmank, 46, of Houston, to remain in federal custody without bond pending his trial for possessing thousands of images of child pornography downloaded via the internet, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today.

Indicted on Jan. 29, 2009, and arrested the following day, Symmank has been in federal custody since his arrest. The court handed down its decision this morning following a hearing and finding that Symmank posed a danger to the community if released on bond. The federal charge brought against Symmank is the result of an investigation conducted by the Houston and Chicago offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center in the United Kingdom (UK). Having entered a plea of not guilty to the charge, trial of the case is set for April 6, 2009, before U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore.

The investigation leading to the one count indictment was initiated in March 2008 when ICE agents and investigators in the UK identified a website used to post images of child erotica and served as a meeting place for individuals with a sexual interest in children. The website allowed members to communicate with each other and to post comments concerning the posted images. Members of the website earned “points” that allowed them more access by posting images and comments on the website. During today’s hearing the court heard testimony that UK investigators were able to obtain a copy of the server and to identify members of the website. Symmank was allegedly one of the members identified.

Based upon information provided by the UK investigations, Houston ICE agents secured a search warrant and on Oct. 1, 2008, ICE executed the warrant at Symmank’s Houston residence. Testimony introduced at today’s hearing revealed agents found two desktop computers, one external hard drive and a number of CDs containing images of child pornography. A forensic analysis of the computer and external media resulted in the discovery of 2417 images and two videos of child pornography. 

The court’s finding of dangerousness was based in part on testimony that demonstrated Symmank had downloaded and fantasized about the images from websites associated with child pornography. Additionally, testimony was introduced that photographs of young teen girls taken at a local mall were also found on his computer.
 
If convicted of possessing child pornography Symmank faces a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000. Additionally, the offense carries a maximum of a life term of supervised release during which the court can impose a number of special conditions designed to protect children and prohibit the use of the Internet.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Stabe.

 

 

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