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Judge upholds search in child pornography case

--- Pictures last seen more than 20 years ago

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published Nov. 19, 2007, 3:03 p.m.)

The homemade child pornography that police say they found at the rural Elkhorn home of Bruce T. Barker was old--the last time anyone reported seeing it was at least 1985.

But Judge James Carlson ruled last week Thursday that even though nobody had seen the pictures in more than 20 years, Walworth County sheriff's detectives weren't precluded from searching for it.

Carlson denied a defense motion, which said the search was invalid because the evidence was stale.

Police obtained a search warrant for Barker's home, N6632 Bowers Road, after several men came forward and accused Barker, 75, of sexually assaulting them when they were children in the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, according to the warrant affidavit.

Defense attorney Larry Steen said the last time anyone had seen the box of pictures, which police reported finding in the rafters of Barker's basement, was in 1985. He argued that the evidence was stale and officers should not have been given a search warrant.

Former Walworth County Assistant District Attorney Dennis Krueger did not give detectives his "blessing" for a warrant in January because of the staleness issue, according to testimony.

Lead detective Robert Sharp then went to District Attorney Phil Koss, who endorsed the warrant before it went to a judge to be signed.

Search warrants do not require the endorsement of a prosecutor.

Carlson ruled the affidavit contained enough evidence to show Barker might still have possessed the pictures.

One of the men reporting the assaults knew where it would be in the rafters. Sharp also contacted a state child sex crime expert, who said those who create or possess child pornography often keep the photos as mementos.

A psychologist hired by the defense said only some, not "many," of those who commit child sex crimes use child pornography.

Barker faces five felony counts of possessing child pornography. Police found about 40 pictures.

Barker was not charged with sexual assault of a child because the statute of limitations had expired, Koss said.

Steen said the case likely will be appealed regardless of the outcome because of the evidentiary issues involved.

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