ELLSWORTH — Former gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler was described by Hancock County Deputy District Attorney Toff Toffolon as having a “a longstanding, untreated and severe addiction to child pornography” during a court hearing Tuesday to review Cutler’s request for monitored internet access.
The Maine State Police arrested Cutler in Brooklin March 25 on four counts of possession of sexually explicit material of a minor under age 12. A condition of his $50,000 cash bail is no access to the internet.
Toffolon and Cutler’s attorney, Walter McKee of McKee Law in Augusta, were in Hancock County Superior Court Tuesday before Justice Robert Murray for the hearing.
McKee had filed a motion to amend Cutler’s bail to allow internet access with monitoring by an outside firm, which would report any issues to both the state and McKee. Cutler was not present. McKee said Cutler was waiving his right to appear.
The judge also unsealed Cutler’s arrest warrant affidavit Tuesday.
Investigators discovered devices containing thousands of child pornography videos in a bedroom of the house that Cutler said he sleeps in, according to the affidavit.
“The day after the search warrant was executed, forensic analyst Victoria Brennan advised Lang that the compact flash cards had literally thousands of videos of very young children being sexually abused,” according to a copy of the affidavit, written by Special Agent Glenn Lang of the Maine Computer Crimes Unit.
Murray granted the motion for monitored internet access with the stipulation that the court be provided the serial numbers for one cellphone and one laptop that Cutler would access.
Toffolon said the state did not oppose the request but offered a caution.
“The state is concerned about a distinction between Mr. Cutler and other defendants accused of similar crimes,” Toffolon said. But, the state also understands each defendant is unique, he added.
People who are addicted to child pornography, “they cannot control their impulses,” Toffolon said. “If he strays … the state will take swift action, including the possibility of jail,” pre-trial.
Murray did ask McKee for more detail about the proposed monitoring of Cutler’s devices, stating it wasn’t clear how the monitoring software is programmed to identify sexual material.
“I think keywords are just one component,” McKee said. Any pornographic sites with images would also trigger an alert.
“What judgment is exercised by that representative?” Murray asked.
“There wouldn’t be,” McKee said. “An alert would automatically trigger a notice.”
According to the affidavit, the investigation into Cutler began when authorities were alerted by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which in turn had been notified by electronic service provider Dropbox about one file of sexually explicit material that had been uploaded.
“NCMEC is a nonprofit organization that provides services to families and professionals that relate to the abduction and sexual exploitation of children,” Lang stated. “NCMEC also operates the CyberTipline and the Child Victim Identification Programs to assist law enforcement officers and others in identifying and rescuing victims of child exploitation and child pornography.”
The NCMEC works with electronic service providers and remote computing service providers, such as Facebook, to reduce the dissemination of child pornography images and/or videos on the internet, Lang said.
Electronic service providers will capture IP addresses at the date and time of the file being uploaded by the user and any registration information, Lang explained. The NCMEC then researches more publicly available information to determine, if possible, the geographic region so the report can be forwarded to the appropriate jurisdiction. The report also goes to the Regional Internet Crimes Against Children commander for further investigation. The Maine Computer Crimes Unit serves as the regional Internet Crimes Against Children Unit for Maine.
The tip came to Maine from NCMEC on Jan. 5.
From there investigative work began, including a search warrant affidavit for the contents of the Dropbox account belonging to Cutler.
“There was some difficulty actually downloading the material from Dropbox to its size, approximately 447 GB,” Lang stated in the arrest warrant affidavit. “After several attempts to download this data, I went to the office in Vassalboro and forensic analyst Stacy Fracoeur did the download for me. She also uncompressed the data, which took several hours.”
The Dropbox file contained adult pornography but no child pornography.
Investigators say they did find child pornography videos on “flash cards” located in a second-floor bedroom of Cutler’s home in Brooklin, where a team of 11 officers, including a Homeland Security agent, executed a search warrant March 23.
Two forensic analysts were on site at the house with a forensic van to preview media being collected.
“When I checked on their progress, FA Brennan [forensic analyst Victoria] told me she had located a very large number of child pornography videos on the flash cards that were taken from the second-floor bedroom,” Lang stated. “She showed me a couple of the videos and they were of young girls in the 4-year-old age range being sexually exploited.”
Police entered the house after knocking for several minutes and getting no response, according to Lang. They found Cutler and his wife, who had recently had foot surgery and was recuperating in bed, upstairs.
Cutler was cooperative.
“While I was sitting with him in his kitchen, he told me he could make the search much quicker for us by showing us where things are, but he should really wait to talk to his lawyer,” Lang stated.
The next conference in the case is tentatively scheduled for late July.
Toffolon advised Murray that the state wants more time for the computer crimes lab to do more forensic analysis.