Houlton man has yet to plead on felony child porn charges

David Russell (left) appears in Aroostook County Superior Court in Houlton on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012, with his attorney, Jeff Pickering of Houlton. Russell was arrested and charged last month with two felony charges of dissemination of sexually explicit material and possession of sexually explicit material.
Jen Lynds | BDN
David Russell (left) appears in Aroostook County Superior Court in Houlton on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012, with his attorney, Jeff Pickering of Houlton. Russell was arrested and charged last month with two felony charges of dissemination of sexually explicit material and possession of sexually explicit material. Buy Photo
Posted Jan. 18, 2012, at 2:59 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 18, 2012, at 6 p.m.
David Russell
David Russell

HOULTON, Maine — A Houlton man arrested last month in connection with possession and distribution of child pornography is no longer in jail and appeared in court Wednesday to schedule a status conference on his case in late March.

David Russell, 57, appeared in Aroostook County Superior Court Wednesday morning with his attorney, Jeff Pickering of Houlton.

Russell is facing two felony charges of dissemination of sexually explicit material and possession of sexually explicit material. He made his initial appearance shortly after his arrest on Dec. 14 and remained in the Aroostook County Jail for more than a week before making bail, which was set at $50,000 surety or $10,000 cash with numerous conditions. He has not entered a plea to the charges.

Russell did not speak to Justice E. Allen Hunter during the brief appearance Wednesday, but through his attorney acknowledged the scheduling of the March 21 conference to discuss his case. The conference could be deferred if he is indicted by the grand jury before then.

Russell was arrested Dec. 14 at his Bangor Street apartment after an investigation that began on Nov. 25 by a detective with the Wheaton (Illinois) Police Department.

Houlton Police Chief Butch Asselin said last month that Detective Andrew Uhlir contacted HPD about Russell’s alleged involvement in the possession and dissemination of child pornography over the Internet. Uhlir, a member of the Illinois department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, was conducting an undercover investigation into unlawful possession and distribution of child pornography through peer-to-peer networks online.

Using a fake computer profile, Uhlir was granted permission to browse the files of a person identified as “russdave” who was using a peer-to-peer program called Gigitribe. Gigitribe is a file-sharing program that allows users to create profiles, post blog entries and chat with one another. Users decide who will be allowed in their private networks.

Asselin said “russdave” allowed the detective access to his network. Once there, Uhlir identified files that were available for download and saw a large amount of images and videos which had titles indicative of child pornography. On viewing the files, Uhlir observed that they in fact showed images of children engaged in sexual activity with adults, according to Asselin. Other images in the files depicted children posing in lewd positions.

The detective said he identified the user as Russell and submitted his investigative file to HPD Detective Kris Calaman for follow up. Calaman contacted the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit for assistance on Nov. 28.

Two days later, the chief said, police executed a search warrant at the Russell residence. A Dell computer, 18 CDs and DVDs and an external hard drive were seized. The CDs, DVDs and electronic devices were briefly examined inside the computer crimes mobile unit at the scene and found to contain an inordinate amount of child pornography, Asselin said.

Police also seized two cameras. Russell’s smartphone was examined in the apartment and found not to contain child pornography.

No arrest was made at that time because the investigation wasn’t completed, the chief said.

Asselin said that there is no evidence to show Russell was viewing or disseminating child pornography other than at his residence. The chief said that there also is no evidence to indicate any of the materials seized contained images or videos of local children.

Russell had been working as an advertising representative for the Houlton Pioneer Times but resigned before his arrest.

Bail conditions mandate that he not possess Internet-ready electronic devices, submit to random search and testing of any Internet-ready electronic devices and have no contact with any children under age 18.

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