Two Barton men charged for child porn

William Allen reacts to an argument in favor of $250,000 bail from Assistant Attorney General Evan Meenan (not visible).  He appeared in the Criminal Division of Orleans Superior Court with his lawyer Zack Weight Monday and pled innocent to six felony charges related to distributing child pornography.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

William Allen reacts to an argument in favor of $250,000 bail from Assistant Attorney General Evan Meenan (not visible). He appeared in the Criminal Division of Orleans Superior Court with his lawyer Zack Weight Monday and pled innocent to six felony charges related to distributing child pornography. Photo by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle June 25, 2014

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT— An online investigation led to the arrest Monday of two Barton men on child pornography charges. The two cases appear to be unrelated to each other.

William M. Allen, 29, and Colton E. Chenard, 21, appeared Monday in the Criminal Division of Orleans Superior Court where they denied charges of “promoting visual sexual recordings.”

Mr. Allen pled innocent to six such felony charges, and Mr. Chenard pled innocent to four. If convicted, each man faces the possibility of a ten-year prison sentence on each charge.

Judge Howard VanBenthuysen released Mr. Chenard, who has no prior record, on $25,000 bail. Mr. Allen, though, is being held at Northern State Correctional Facility for lack of $250,000 bail.

At arraignment, Assistant Attorney General Evan Meenan asked for the high bail for Mr. Allen, basing the request on his prior convictions for lewd and lascivious conduct and possession of child pornography. Mr. Allen is already on the state sex offender’s registry, has twice failed to appear for court proceedings, and has violated his terms of probation twice, Mr. Meenan said.

Police downloaded 11 videos of child pornography from Mr. Chenard’s computer and 35 from Mr. Allen’s, according to an affidavit from Detective Matthew Raymond of the state attorney general’s office. The images on Mr. Allen’s computer depicted sexual activities with children, at least one of whom appeared to be a toddler, the affidavit says.

The investigation of both cases depended on technical features of the Internet. One of these, the Internet Protocol (IP) address, can identify particular computers sending and receiving files. Another is a type of communication software called a peer-to-peer network.

Such networks are often used to share illegal files such as copyrighted music or, less often, child pornography. The files on any computer on a network can be accessed by anyone else on the same network. As a result, a person with a file on his computer is effectively sharing it across the network without taking any other action.

Someone signing on to a peer-to-peer network can search the list of files available on the network and can choose which ones he or she would like to download. The downloads typically are held in a special file that is available to other users of the network.

The IP address of a person uploading files can easily be traced to a physical address using simple software tools. The owner of the network through which the user is connected to the Internet is also easy to determine.

The investigation in both cases was done by Detective Raymond, who works for the Vermont Attorney General’s office as a member of the Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Using the G2 peer-to-peer network on May 16, Detective Raymond downloaded 35 files containing child pornography from a Vermont-based computer, his affidavit says. The images include sexual activities with children who appear to be under six years of age, Detective Raymond said.

A check of a free publicly available website showed that the computer the files came from was located in Vermont and was on a line registered to Comcast Cable Communications, Detective Raymond said.

On May 21 Detective Raymond said he got a subpoena requiring Comcast to divulge the name of the subscriber who matched the IP address from which the files came.

Two days later he was told the computer was located in Barton at an apartment occupied by Mr. Allen, Detective Raymond said.

Mr. Allen was convicted of lewd and lascivious conduct and possession of child pornography in 2005, the affidavit says. On April 8 of this year, a check conducted by State Police Trooper Andrew Jensen as part of the sex offender registry, showed that Mr. Allen was living at the apartment, Detective Raymond said.

On June 19, a warrant was obtained allowing police to search Mr. Allen’s home for “child pornography, computers and electronic media devices.” The warrant, Detective Raymond said, allows police to keep and examine such devices for up to 180 days.

Detective Raymond said he and Detective Trooper Raymond Snetsinger went to Mr. Allen’s apartment on June 20. Mr. Allen allegedly told police he had a computer and a connection to the Internet with which he may have viewed child pornography using a peer-to-peer program.

Mr. Allen was also able to explain how a peer-to-peer program works, Detective Allen said.

He said he gave the warrant to Mr. Allen and called in a team to search his apartment. A desktop computer and other electronic devices were taken, the affidavit says.

Mr. Allen spoke with Detective Raymond while the search was taking place and told him that he moved some of his pornographic files to an external hard drive and possibly to thumb drives or CD-ROMs.

State Police Lieutenant Brian Penders, a forensic examiner, checked out the desktop computer and the external hard drive and found child pornography and signs of a peer-to-peer program, the affidavit says.

Colton Chenard pleads innocent to four felony charges of promoting sexual recording Monday.  With him was his lawyer, Gertrude Miller.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Colton Chenard pleads innocent to four felony charges of promoting sexual recording Monday. With him was his lawyer, Gertrude Miller. Photo by Joseph Gresser

While Detective Raymond went to conduct a search related to Mr. Chenard’s arrest, Mr. Allen was taken into custody, the affidavit says.

Mr. Chenard was arrested on June 20 at the Pinecrest Motel on Route 5 where he was living. His arrest came after Detective Raymond was able to download pornographic videos over a peer-to-peer network, a second affidavit says. The Internet connection was traced back to an IP address located in Vermont on the Comcast network.

Detective Raymond downloaded the first of the videos on April 8, 2013, according to his affidavit. He said the images showed underage girls engaged in sexual activities.

He downloaded 11 such films between April 2013 and May 10, 2014, Detective Raymond said.

A subpoena filed on Comcast produced the information that the files had been sent over a connection at the Pinecrest Motel in Barton located in the business office, Detective Raymond said. He said the connection was not protected by a password.

On June 14, Detective Raymond went to the motel and spoke to the innkeeper about renting a cabin. While there he logged on to the network and saw that its IP address matched the one from which the pornography had been downloaded, the affidavit says.

With that information, Detective Raymond got a search warrant on June 19.

He went to the motel with the warrant on June 20 and spoke with the innkeeper. He said he operates the business on behalf of absentee owners, that he had one working computer in the office and one broken one. The innkeeper said he had heard of the Ares network, but never used it.

The innkeeper said Mr. Chenard also lived at the motel and owned a laptop computer, said Detective Raymond.

A search of the business computers turned up nothing of interest. Mr. Chenard’s computer was found underneath his bed.

When he looked at the laptop, Detective Raymond said, he noticed it was on. On the desktop was a folder called “My Shared Folder,” which Detective Raymond said was typically placed there by the Ares program.

Inside the folder were found the last five files of child pornography downloaded during the investigation, the affidavit says. A list of 162 files downloaded using the Ares program included many with file names suggesting they were child pornography, said Detective Raymond.

Similarly, he said, search terms used to find files with the program suggested the owner of the computer was looking for child pornography.

Detective Raymond said he went to Mr. Chenard’s workplace in Newport where he showed Mr. Chenard the search warrant and told him what he found.

Mr. Chenard said he knows how Ares works and that anything in his shared file can be downloaded by other users, the affidavit says. He admitted the computer was his, said no one else ever used it, and said he had been downloading child pornography for about one year, Detective Raymond said.

Mr. Chenard said he looks for films with girls about age 15, the affidavit says. Detective Raymond said Mr. Chenard told him his only girlfriend was 15 when they had a relationship.

According to the affidavit, Mr. Chenard was 18 at the time. A search of Mr. Chenard’s phone turned up some questionable images, Detective Raymond said. Mr. Chenard said they were photographs of his ex-girlfriend, the affidavit says.

contact Joseph Gresser at joseph@bartonchronicle.com

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