Investigation of McDonough proceeds slowly
A federal grand jury is likely investigating a Woody Creek man on suspicion of possessing and distributing child pornography.Willard Bill McDonough has been the subject of a nearly seven-month investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI. Customs agents in April seized computers, videotapes, photographs and other material allegedly containing child pornography from McDonough’s home.The search warrant in the case says McDonough tried to solicit sex several times from a detective in Illinois who was posing on the Internet as a 13-year-old girl. He also sent the investigator images of child pornography, the warrant says.The allegations have shocked many in Aspen and Woody Creek. McDonough is a longtime resident who ran a sporting goods store on the Cooper Avenue mall for more than two decades. He declined to comment when reached at his home.He has hired Denver lawyers Pamela Mackey, who represented Kobe Bryant in his sex-assault case in Eagle, and Kevin McGreevy. Mackey was not available and McGreevy also declined to comment.Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said McDonough still has not been charged and said the investigation is continuing. He said his agency is awaiting the results of a computer forensics assessment performed by the FBI.”After the forensic work is complete, they then present the evidence to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which reviews it to decide what, if any, charges are appropriate,” Dorschner said. “Sometimes in reviewing the evidence, there are other questions that need to be answered, and so either additional forensic work or additional interviews are done.”Dorschner and others interviewed stressed that they were not talking about McDonough’s case but were discussing federal investigations in general.Dorschner said his office doesn’t “discuss in any way anything pertaining to grand juries.” But such bodies are constitutionally guaranteed for those charged with a felony in federal court.Grand juries are formed after search warrants are carried out, said Patrick Murphy, former head of the U.S. Attorney’s Office criminal division in Denver. In grand jury hearings, prosecutors call witnesses and try to build their case, he said.Murphy said an investigation like McDonough’s could involve both computer forensic work and grand jury proceedings.”It’s the federal government: It moves very slowly. It’s a glacier, but you just never want to get underneath it,” he said. “The federal process moves very slowly but it’s extremely powerful.”Piecing together evidence from computers is a difficult process, said Carl Rusnok, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”There’s what we call a forensic document lab that many ICE offices have in order to essentially take apart a computer and find all the images that are on the computer, [including] the ones that have been hidden,” he said. “It can take awhile to pursue that.”He said some child pornography cases involve thousands of images and movies.”There’s a whole chain of custody that has to be followed,” Rusnok said. “If they find something on the computer that might lead them to a particular individual, a particular victim or something like that, that might also be the cause [for a delay].”A lot of information can be stored on a computer, either intentionally or unintentionally. When they check out that computer it could lead to lots of other potential charges, as well.”Dorschner said that while a grand jury is a constitutional right, in some cases “where people know we have evidence that will prove they committed the crime, sometimes they will waive their right to [a grand jury] indictment in an agreement essentially with the government.”Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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