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Jurors will spend at least 90 minutes today watching 21 videos the prosecution says is child pornography taken from a computer owned by a man facing 22 felony possession charges.
The suspect, 43-year-old Matthew John Stickle, was arrested in December 2013 after an undercover police investigator found sexually explicit video and photo files downloaded from an online peer-to-peer sharing software program on his computer.
He is on trial for nine counts of possession of child pornography with intent to distribute and 13 counts of possession of child pornography with intent to distribute as a second or subsequent offense.
He faces a mandatory minimum of 65 years in prison for the 22 felony charges.
Eleven female and three male jurors – two of whom are alternates – spent day one of Stickle’s trial in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court listening to how police obtained and analyzed the child pornography from Stickle’s laptop.
While Stickle’s attorney Patricia Nagel agrees the explicit files are consistent with child pornography and were found on her client’s laptop, she is arguing the prosecution cannot prove Stickle is responsible for downloading or viewing the videos and photos.
Nagel spent at least 15 minutes questioning Stickle’s fiancée — who lived with him at the time the police search warrant for the contraband was conducted in their condominium on Claiborne Drive in Williamsburg — during cross-examination.
The woman, who works as a middle school teacher, said she originally told police she had never used Stickle’s laptop, but in September 2014, she remembered using it once to enter grades into her online gradebook.
“[Forgetting] was not intentional,” the woman said on the stand.
Nagel argued the woman deliberately withheld the new information from the prosecution and until February 2015. The woman said it “slipped her mind” until she saw Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Maureen Kufro again in court in February.
The undercover investigation into Stickle’s case was performed by Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Scott Little, who also works as a district coordinator for the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children task force.
Little spent the last hour of Tuesday’s trial explaining his procedure for seizing and analyzing illegal digital media.
In September 2013, his software detected child pornography was being downloaded by a computer via a peer-to-peer software sharing program using an internet source from a home in Williamsburg. In October 2013, he discovered more child pornography was downloaded from the same address, so he obtained a search warrant, seized Stickle’s laptop and Stickle’s fiancée’s laptop and cell phone.
A cursory scan of the technology showed no signs of child pornography or peer-to-peer sharing software on the woman’s items, but Little found both on Stickle’s laptop, so he did a more intense analysis of the laptop’s hard drive.
“[Stickle] created a library where he kept his collection,” Kufro said during her opening statement Tuesday.
Today, Kufro will show at least part of all of the videos found on Stickle’s laptop and will ask the jury to determine whether there are children who appear to be under the age of 18 in the videos, and whether there are sexually explicit acts occurring in the clips.
The defense will also present its evidence, which includes testimony from an expert witness and a friend of Stickle’s.