Local man on trial for child porn charges

By Shelli DeRobertis
ENCINITAS — A trial is under way for an Encinitas man accused of possessing and distributing child pornography after two separate investigations in 2006 led authorities from California and Texas to the local resident.
Michael Douglas, 36, is charged with three counts of distributing child pornography, one count of possession of child pornography and a misdemeanor charge of attempting to send child pornography to a minor.
The jury selection was completed the morning of March 1.
On the previous day, some jurors trickled out of the courthouse after they were questioned about things such as their feelings on child pornography and whether they would lean one way or another before the testimony began.
“I’m getting goose bumps just with the way I feel about the situation,” said one potential juror.
He was excused.
But the required number of people finally became qualified as jurors, and the trial began.
Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe, the prosecutor on the case, told jurors that they would have to view at least a few of the pornographic images depicting children — but only a select few — of the thousands of photos that had been obtained as evidence.
He told the jury that they would have to see some awful things, and he apologized for the images that he said would be tough to stomach.
He said the defendant is accused of being in possession of child pornography on his home computer, and of uploading images onto the Internet and sharing them with people online.
The images included children between the ages of 10 and 13 having sex with adult men who were in their 40s, he said.
Watanabe said that the prosecution must prove that not only were the images of child pornography on Douglas’ computer, but that Douglas knew that the images were there.
He is also accused of possessing a DVD with several videos of child pornography on it, Watanabe said.
“This is a case about an Internet predator,” Watanbe said. “What are the chances that two separate investigations in two separate states would lead back to the same person — Michael Douglas?” Watanabe said.
The defendant was discovered chatting online with a 13-year-old girl and sending her pornographic images,
but the girl was actually an undercover officer in Texas, he said.
“You’re going to hear that he was chatting online with a lot of girls ages 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 … and all the while he was making attempts to try and seduce them, meet up with them and have sex with them, quite frankly,” Watanabe said.
Douglas wore a burgundy shirt as he sat next to his attorney, senior felony trial attorney Michael Washington of the San Diego County Public Defender’s office, as the attorney made his opening statements.
“For almost four-and-a-half years Michael Douglas has been waiting for this opportunity to get a jury,” he said.
Douglas lived in a house with his mother and his aunt, and in November 2006 when detectives separately questioned the household members, each family member told police the same thing, Washington said.
“His family told them, ‘You’ve got the wrong guy,’” he said.
A friend of Douglas had been caught using his computer to look at pornography and was asked to leave the house and not allowed to come back, Washington said.
“The question is, who was sending this information?” he asked the jury.
He said his client was a freelance photographer who loved sports, especially baseball and volleyball, and he had also worked as a courier.
The friend of Douglas who had been kicked out of the house was an unemployed man with free time on his hands, Washington said.
“Is it possible someone else could have used their computer or used a remote control to access pornography on the computer?” he asked.
He also said that there were two IP addresses found that belonged to Douglas’ mother, Linda Douglas.
Watanabe said the investigation stemmed after Yahoo notified authorities that a user had posted child pornography images to one of the online user groups.
Detective Anthony Torres, who is part of a multi-agency task force based in San Diego, had locally investigated the origin of the child pornography while a detective based in Texas had his own sting going on.
Torres testified that his research into e-mail addresses, user IDs and a federal subpoena for the Internet service provider of the computer’s location led him to Douglas as the suspect.
The detective from San Antonio, Texas, who had posed online as a 13-year-old female as part of a sting to catch a predator, had also been led to Douglas as a suspect in his own investigation.
“San Antonio had court orders filed. Michael Douglas was also the suspect on that,” Torres said.
Watanabe said that San Diego detectives had just discovered the San Antonio investigation on the day before San Diego detectives were set to search the home of Douglas.
“Then it was determined we would work the two cases together,” Torres said.
A forensic search of the defendant’s computer revealed thousands of child pornography images and videos, he said.
He then brought out a cardboard box that he said detectives found in Douglas’ bedroom.
He pulled out a stack magazines that featured adult women dressed up as young girls.
Watanabe said the box was found in Douglas’ bedroom after the investigation led detectives to Douglas.
There was also a search of Douglas’ car, Watanabe said to the jurors, which included the findings of a large box of condoms, some lubricant, handcuffs, flashing lights like the lights that are used to pull someone over and elastic bands.
The San Antonio detective is one of the witnesses expected to testify as the trial continues.
Douglas faces four years in prison if convicted.

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