Crime

Jury begins deliberating in Lee case

Jurors began deliberating Thursday in the child pornography trial of Christopher Lee.
Jurors began deliberating Thursday in the child pornography trial of Christopher Lee. Centre Daily Times, file

Jurors in the child pornography trial of the former executive director of the Boal Mansion Museum have a decision to make when they resume deliberations Friday.

Do they accept the argument of Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith Taylor that the evidence overwhelmingly points toward Christopher Lee?

Or do they side with defense attorney Kyle Rude who told them not to let the “disgusting” pictures of child pornography they saw during the four-day trial cloud their mind?

The six men and six women deliberated for about an hour Thursday evening before U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann sent them home. The judge had given them the option of going home or having dinner brought in so they could continue deliberating.

Both sides rested earlier in the day, Taylor and Rude gave their closing arguments and Brann instructed the jurors on the law.

Testimony ended without Lee, 66, taking the stand. The defense called only four witnesses to support its theory others had access to the computers and Lee did not obstruct justice as charged.

The assumption Lee must be guilty because child pornography was found on computers and other devices in the museum is wrong, Rude said in his closing argument.

Taylor told jurors if they applied their common sense and life experiences to what they saw and heard during the trial it would be unreasonable find anyone but Lee was responsible for the child pornography.

All the devices on which State College police and the FBI found child pornography were on the second floor including Lee’s bedroom, she said.

A list of websites with links to pornographic sites was modified the day before Lee was arrested on Oct. 2, 2014, she pointed out.

At least five password-protected devices found in the museum contained child pornography, she said. Some of the devices, besides Lee’s personal items, contained explicit narratives with pornographic photos, she reminded jurors.

The production of child pornography count alleged that cropped and trimmed still photos were taken from videos Lee admitted to taking in 2005 and 2006 of boys then 14 and 15.

There is no evidence Lee transferred to a computer the cropped pictures that focused on the genital area, Rude argued.

Lee should be found guilty of obstruction of justice because he asked his cousin, John Thompson, in calls from the Columbia County Prison after his arrest to retrieve his cellphone from the FBI and have it “wiped,” Taylor argued.

Rude countered Lee was concerned about his contacts on the phone and noted once Thompson told him it would be obstruction of justice to tamper with it, the requests stopped.

Rude questioned how Lee could be found guilty of knowingly possessing child pornography when the prosecution evidence showed all 69,704 images on a computer were invisible because they were in deleted or unallocated space.

Someone had to move those images to the delete file, Taylor said.

As he did in his opening statement, Rude accused investigators of pointing only at Lee because it was the easy thing to do. The defense presented evidence others had access to the computers.

Much of the prosecution’s case involved FBI Agent Clifton Vikara identifying pictures and documents found on computers and other devices seized from the museum.

Lee, who has been detained without bail since his arrest, is facing a second trial for which no date has been set on charges he enticed and transported two boys, 14, and 17, to the museum with the intent to engage in sexual activity with them.

Those charges were severed from the child pornography and obstruction of justice counts.

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