Lee trial testimony focuses on phone calls

The child pornography trial for former Boal Mansion Museum executive director Christopher Lee continued Tuesday.
The child pornography trial for former Boal Mansion Museum executive director Christopher Lee continued Tuesday. Centre Daily Times, file

Phone calls the former executive director of the Boal Mansion Museum made from jail were part of testimony during the second day of the federal child pornography trial of Christopher Lee.

The prosecution contends when Lee told John Thompson, of Bellefonte, to have a cellphone “wiped,” it shows intent to erase evidence.

Thompson, who for a while assumed the day-to-day operation of the museum, testified his cousin was concerned about the FBI obtaining contacts on his phone related to the business.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith Taylor played parts of a number of phone calls Lee made to Thompson from the Columbia County Prison in October 2014. Lee has been detained without bail since his Oct. 2, 2014, arrest.

Thompson did maintenance and volunteer work at the museum from 2002 to 2005. He became a board member in 2005 and serves as treasurer.

He testified Lee did not want anyone to access data on his cell phone and asked him get it back from the FBI and have it “wiped.”

In another of the calls played for jurors, Lee suggests having it wiped remotely.

Thompson testified he never attempted to do what Lee asked. The requests stopped after he relayed to Lee that an attorney told him “wiping” the phone would be construed as obstruction of justice, he said.

Under cross-examination, Thompson testified the phone belonged to the mansion and was used for museum business. Lee’s main concern after being arrested was the running of the business, and he would call daily from jail, Thompson said.

Lee, 66, a former Harris Township supervisor, is charged with possession, receipt and possession of child pornography along with obstruction of justice.

His attorney, Kyle Rude, claims his client did not knowingly commit the pornography crimes and that others had access to computers in the museum.

Thompson responded to one of Rude’s questions he saw adult and young volunteers on the computer in what was known as the museum tour office. Visitors to the museum are given guided tours.

At least five devices containing child pornography with dates ranging over a decade were found in the museum, Taylor told jurors in her opening statement Monday.

She alleged Lee would take pictures focusing on the genital areas and buttocks of boys 14 and 15 years old “acting as silly teenagers.”

The boys, some of whom were from France, served as volunteer tour guides and stayed at the mansion, she said.

There was no nudity in Lee’s pictures but he would cut and paste his close-ups onto other photos making them more sinister, she said. Such a lascivious exhibition violates federal law, she explained.

The trial, expected to take most of the week, is the first of two Lee is facing.

The second, for which no date has been set, is on allegations he enticed and transported two boys, 14, and 17, to the museum with the intent to engage in sexual activity with them.