By Darrell Todd Maurina
Editor’s note: This story contains information that some readers may find offensive. The Clovis News Journal is withholding the suspect’s name in an effort to protect the identity of the child involved.
The attorney of a 30-year-old Clovis woman accused of sexually exploiting a child said the digital photos of his client with a child could have been altered.
“The officers have reviewed the photos and do not believe they have been digitally altered,” said Ninth Judicial District Attorney Brett Carter at the woman’s arraignment Friday afternoon in Curry County District Court.
The woman’s attorney, Michael Garrett, entered a plea of “not guilty” on her behalf and successfully persuaded Judge Stephen Quinn to allow her to leave jail on a $15,000 bond, provided she always be in the presence of at least one of her grandparents, who live about 15 miles north of Clovis. The woman’s original bond was $50,000.
Other conditions of her release include not leaving Curry County without court permission and having no contact with any of three specified children — the girl she is accused of exploiting and two others not mentioned in the allegations. Curry County Adult Detention Center officers confirmed she was released late Friday.
The woman was arrested Monday after photos showing the woman having sexual contact with a child arrived anonymously at the Children, Youth and Families Division, accompanied by an unsigned note asking for help.
Carter argued against the reduced bond on Friday, noting the severity of the alleged child abuse and also referring to separate photos that show the woman having sexual contact with a dog.
“There is some fairly disturbing information showing that the subject is digitally penetrating a child,” Carter said. “There are also some mental health considerations the court should take into account, and as a condition of any bond, (there should be) no contact with any of the children at any time.”
Carter also said the woman could pose a flight risk since she had only recently moved from North Carolina to Clovis.
“There might be a tendency to go to North Carolina, and that is why we believe a significant bond is required,” Carter said.
Garrett said the photos submitted to the court may have been electronically altered by a person from another state with whom the woman had a prior relationship; Garrett said fleeing from that man was a strong motivation for his client to stay in Clovis.
“There is no showing (of evidence) of any kind other than that there is a man obsessed with sex to concoct these pictures, come to Clovis, and mail them while he was here,” Garrett said. “What’s more important is she’s here with her grandparents and they are asking for her to be with them.”
“I have discussed at length that they should be fully cooperative with the FBI and anyone else,” Garrett said.
Contacted after the hearing, Garrett said the woman had nothing to do with the photos submitted to the court as evidence and accused the District Attorney’s office of overly hasty prosecution.
“This crap like they’re referring to, you can go on the Internet and find anything,” Garrett said. “Any photos which they have today, they don’t know where they came from or how they were made.”