Federal Search Warrant for Email and Analysis of Cell Phone Lead to Charges for Abuse of Helpless Infant; Sent Videos and Images Using Messaging App
Baltimore, Maryland – A federal grand jury indicted Stephen H. Schaffner, age 34, of Greensboro, Maryland, yesterday on charges arising from the sexual abuse of a six week old baby who was born prematurely. The indictment alleges that Schaffner conspired with Michael Lutts, age 50, of San Diego, California, to abuse a six-week-old foster child and transmit recorded images and videos of the abuse to Schaffner. Lutts is facing federal charges in San Diego related to his conduct and the investigation is continuing.
Anyone who may have information related to the investigation of Stephen Schaffner is asked to contact the FBI at 410-265-8080.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; United States Attorney for the Southern District of California Laura E. Duffy; Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation - Maryland; Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Howe of the Federal Bureau of Investigation – San Diego Division; Colonel Marcus L. Brown, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police; Chief Jeff A. Jackson of the Greensboro Police Department and Chief David A. Spencer of the Easton Police Department.
“Thankfully, most technology companies continue to honor federal search warrants and most cellular phones can be searched with a warrant,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “If telecommunications companies provide software and hardware that is immune from federal search warrants, pedophiles will be free to commit such egregious crimes with little risk of detection.”
According to the 10 count indictment, Schaffner was a licensed clinical professional counselor in Maryland until his license was suspended on June 14, 2014. Schaffner was also a licensed associate counselor in Arizona until his Arizona license expired in 2011.
The indictment alleges that Michael Lutts lived in San Diego, California and worked as a pediatric nurse at a hospital in San Diego County. Lutts was also a foster parent. On August 4, 2014, Lutts brought to his home a six week old baby boy, born prematurely, who was placed in his care as a foster child. That evening, Lutts, in California, texted Schaffner, in Maryland, images of the infant. Over the next several hours, Schaffner allegedly exchanged numerous graphic and sexually explicit messages with Lutts about Lutts engaging in sexually explicit conduct with the infant. Lutts sent Schaffner videos with the infant, including images of an adult performing oral sex on the infant. Schaffner is alleged to have directed Lutts to sexually abuse the infant in order to produce sexually explicit images and videos and send them to Shaffner.
A criminal complaint filed in California alleges that authorities obtained a federal search warrant in April 2014 for an email address of a person who was distributing child pornography, which led them to other suspects who were transmitting child pornography. On August 26, 2014, authorities obtained a search warrant for Lutts’s residence and seized a cell phone that contained images and videos of Lutts allegedly sexually molesting the infant.
Schaffner faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years in prison for the conspiracy and for each of nine counts of sexually exploiting a child, followed by up to lifetime supervised release,. On October 1, 2014, Schaffner had his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore and was detained.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.justice.gov/psc and click on the "resources" tab on the left of the page.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI’s Baltimore and San Diego offices, the Maryland State Police Interstate Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), the San Diego, California ICAC, Greensboro Police Department, and Easton Police Department for their work in the investigation and prosecution. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Alessandra P. Serano from the Southern District of California who is prosecuting the case against Michael Lutts, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Myers from Maryland, who is prosecuting the case against Stephen Schaffner.