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City man facing child porno charges

March 19, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

City man facing child porno charges

A Hagerstown man has been charged with using the Internet at the Washington County Free Library to obtain pornographic material of children that he used to solicit a local boy to pose.

Michael Wayne Ridenour, 30, of 156 S. Potomac St., was jailed Wednesday on $25,000 bond. He could face up to 24 years in prison if convicted on all charges, according to records in Washington County District Court.

Investigator Kenny Barnhart of the Washington County Sheriff's Department was contacted on March 5 by a teacher at Brook Lane Health Services near Leitersburg, who told him about a letter a 13-year-old student found that day at his bus stop.

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A manila envelope with the message "Read Me" contained a letter to the child, with whom Ridenour previously had been acquainted, according to authorities.

The letter solicited the child to take nude pictures or videotapes of himself doing certain things, place them in a brown bag with a smiley face drawn on it and leave the bag at the bus stop on March 9, court records said.

At 6 a.m. on March 9, Barnhart and other officers watched the bus stop and saw a white Ford pull up. The driver spoke to the child, handed him a letter and drove away.

The child, following directions from officers, put the brown bag on the ground, boarded his bus and left the area, court records said.

Within two minutes, the white Ford returned and stopped and the driver picked up the bag and drove away, court records said.

Authorities followed the vehicle to a one-lane bridge across Beaver Creek, where Barnhart stopped it and ordered the driver to get out.

When confronted about the letter, its contents and its intended recipient, the man told Barnhart he had a problem and needed help, officers said.

When the trunk of the white Ford was opened, authorities found several computer disks containing pictures of nude male teenagers, court records said.

When asked where he got the disks, the man told police he downloaded them from the Internet at his former place of employment, not at the library, court records said.

Ridenour was charged Wednesday with solicitation of child pornography, possession of child pornography, child pornography from computers, all felonies; and contributing to the condition of a child, a misdemeanor, court records said.

He turned himself in to Barnhart Wednesday morning and was taken before a bond commissioner.

Barnhart's investigation revealed the Washington County Library provides Internet services to the public via their computers.

It was there that the connection was first made to a gay and lesbian chat room and a Canadian named Jay who showed pictures of young boys and a letter soliciting young boys for pictures, court records said.

That letter from Jay was printed out at the library, court records said.

Library Director Mary Baykan said there are filters and other devices that can limit Internet access, but those devices often block legitimate access.

"The Internet is an information highway - no one can have control of the resources it makes available," Baykan said.

She said the library board recently voted to supply one Internet terminal with a filter and to tell parents and guardians that is available for children's use.

But she said there is no foolproof way to screen out offensive materials.

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