By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — A 34-year-old Town of Colfax man is scheduled to be arraigned in Dunn County Circuit Court in September on seven felony counts of possessing child pornography.
Chad H. Stewart, along with his attorney, Charles Huff, appeared before Judge James Peterson July 5 and waived the preliminary hearing that had been scheduled.
During a preliminary hearing, witnesses and investigators give testimony that the judge uses to decide whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that the defendant probably committed the crime. If the judge finds probable cause, the defendant is bound over for trial, and an arraignment hearing is scheduled.
If the defendant waives the preliminary hearing, then the judge uses the information in the criminal complaint to establish probable cause.
Following the waiver of the preliminary hearing, Judge Peterson found probable cause in the Stewart case and set an arraignment date on September 2.
Stewart is accused of having child pornography images on his laptop computer.
According to the criminal complaint, Dunn County investigators were contacted by a Barron County detective in August of 2015. Barron County had received information from the national Center for Missing and Exploited Children of a nude child image that appeared to be a very young female that was uploaded to a website.
The Barron County detective served a subpoena to the IP holder, CenturyLink, and received information back that the IP address from which the child’s image had been uploaded belonged to a Dunn County residence at N7599 state Highway 40, Colfax.
Dunn County investigators learned that the IP address was registered to Chad Stewart.
When contacted by Dunn County investigators, Stewart said that only he and his wife live at the residence and that while he uses a laptop computer to access the Internet, neither he nor his wife have smart phones.
Stewart eventually told investigators that he enjoys looking at pornography but denied looking at any images other than individuals 18 years or older, according to the complaint.
When asked if he had uploaded any images to a site on the Internet associated with pornography, Stewart said he was aware of the site but that he had never uploaded anything and does not have an account.
Investigators examined Stewart’s computer and noticed that there was very little Internet history, leading them to believe that Internet history had been deleted from the computer.
When asked about the lack of Internet history, Steward said he deletes the history so his wife does not know that he is going onto pornographic websites.
Stewart told investigators that he had found the image in question on another website and had uploaded it to the site and that users can post images even without an account.
Stewart went on to tell investigators that he likes to look at teenage girls that are 14 to 16 years old and that he has sexual fantasies about the children in the images.
No images were saved to the computer, Stewart said, because he did not want his wife to find them, according to the complaint.
Investigators received permission from Stewart to take the laptop for a forensic analysis.
The forensic investigator located deleted images on the laptop that were pornographic and involved young girls between the ages of four and seven.
Another image involved an adult woman and a young girl.
Other deleted images involved female juveniles between the ages of five and 15 that were clothed but posed in provocative positions, referred to as child erotica.
In addition, Skype chats were accessed, and in one thread, a statement from Stewart indicated he was interested in making his own pornographic materials with a young family member, according to the complaint.
In the Skype chats, Stewart stated he is attracted to children ranging in age from eight to 13.
The forensic investigator also located a video on the laptop of a young girl stripping in front of a camera and advised that about 85 additional child pornography images were located in the pagefile.sys, according to the complaint.
The complaint goes on to say that the data would have been written during Internet browsing or heavy media consumption and that the Windows system writes to the pagefile on the hard drive when the Random Access Memory (RAM) is full, which also suggested heavy on-line viewing of illicit material.
Additional images involved the penile or digital penetration of infants, according to the complaint.
Investigators checked the images found on Stewart’s laptop with the National Center for Missing or Exploited Children and found that seven of the images are of an identified child.
Investigators spoke to Stewart again in January of this year, and Stewart admitted to viewing more than 50 images of child pornography on his laptop over a several-year period.
Stewart denied having any contact with the child victim and agreed to complete a polygraph.
A polygraph was conducted on February 11, and the detective administering the polygraph reported that Stewart had passed the polygraph, according to the complaint.
Stewart is a free on a $1,000 signature bond.
The seven counts of possessing child pornography are Class D felonies and carry a penalty for each count of up to 25 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000.