Thursday, January 26, 2006

Printer Friendly

Abbott's Cyber Crimes Unit Gets Guilty Verdict Against One Former Officer, Arrests Another For Child Porn

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced a guilty verdict returned in federal court today against a former animal control officer with the Raymondville Police Department on four counts of receipt, possession and distribution of child pornography. Samuel E. Baker Jr., 44, was immediately taken into custody.

Attorney General Abbott’s Cyber Crimes Unit also arrested a former Galveston County peace officer who was caught with more than a thousand images of children engaged in sexual conduct. Investigators arrested Weldon Kovacevich Jr., 44, on Wednesday when he showed up at the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office, thinking he would be picking up personal property. He was charged with possession and promotion of child pornography.

“Law enforcement officers and public servants are supposed to protect our children, not exploit them,” Attorney General Abbott. “The case against Samuel Baker is one of the most horrific instances of child pornography investigated by my office, and I thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for its partnership in bringing this man to justice. We will pursue a tough sentence against this man for his crimes.”

He added: “My office will also aggressively prosecute the case against Mr. Kovacevich, who must be held accountable for his actions. I appreciate the Galveston Police Department and the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office for their cooperation in this case.”

Baker was arrested by Attorney General Abbott’s Cyber Crimes Unit officers in February 2005 following a tip by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that he was receiving and distributing child pornography over the Internet. U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle ordered a pre-sentence investigation and his sentencing date is set for April 24.

Baker faces a minimum of 15 years in federal prison for these offenses. The seven-woman, five-man jury deliberated three hours today before returning the unanimous verdict.

A forensics examination of his computer and related equipment following a search warrant revealed more than 1,000 images of child pornography, some of them involving babies with adults. Prosecutors presented these into evidence during the trial, along with almost 50 images Baker uploaded to an Internet user group.

With federal and state prosecutors obtaining a federal indictment in September, the case moved from Willacy County to Brownsville federal court. Baker was rearrested in September on federal charges of possessing and promoting child pornography.

Terra Bay, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, prosecuted the case with the assistance of Assistant Attorney General Angela Goodwin.

Kovacevich worked for the Bayou Vista (Galveston County) Police Department from 1995 to 2003 and for the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office from 1991 to 1995. He is currently employed as a loan officer with a mortgage company.

Cyber Crimes investigators executed a search warrant at Kovacevich’s home on Jan. 12. In addition to the images of child pornogrphy in his possession, they also found evidence he had been transmitting the images to others. He is now in the Galveston County Jail on $150,000 bond.

Possession of child pornography is a third-degree felony, with a punishment range of two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Promotion is a second-degree felony that carries a possible punishment of two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Cracking down on sexual predators is a top priority of Attorney General Abbott’s administration. His office has obtained convictions against 33 men on child pornography charges since Attorney General Abbott took office in December 2002.

The Cyber Crimes Unit, which also tracks down individuals who use the Internet to solicit meetings with children for sex, has arrested 71 of these predators since Abbott took office in December 2002. The Fugitive Unit, which locates convicted child sex offenders who have violated the terms of their parole and could be stalking children, has arrested 257 of these parolees. The Fugitive Unit has also arrested 38 unregistered sex offenders and another 18 men and women in other operations. For more information, visit the Attorney General’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov or call (800) 252-8011.