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Spalding indicted on 16 counts

February 07, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

A Washington County grand jury has returned a 16-count indictment against former Hagerstown City Councilman Steven Kenneth Spalding over his alleged sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl he met on the Internet when she was 11.

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Spalding, 45, was served Friday with the indictment, which had been sealed since the grand jury's findings on Jan. 21, according to Washington County State's Attorney Kenneth Long.

The indictment includes a new charge of manufacturing computer-generated child pornography, which brings to 16 the number of charges that will be prosecuted, according to Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Susan Lochbaum.

The definition of that new charge wasn't available. It carries a 10-year maximum penalty.

The other counts in the indictment include second-degree rape, child pornography - computers, second- and third-degree sex offenses, second-degree assault, possession of child pornography, perverted sexual practices, sodomy and contributing to the conditions of a child.

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Spalding originally was charged with 38 counts alleging activities on certain days, but the indictment streamlined those offenses to indicate time periods when incidents were alleged to have occurred, Lochbaum said.

"We are satisfied with the prospective penalties of this indictment," said Lochbaum.

She said convictions on the charges could carry combined maximum penalties of about 85 years in prison.

Washington County Sheriff's deputies took Spalding into custody on Dec. 29 at his 609 Ravenswood Drive home. He was freed on $75,000 bond. The bond is unaffected by the indictment.

The charges against Spalding stemmed from a Dec. 10 complaint by the girl's mother of alleged sexual offenses against her daughter.

Cpl. Roy Harsh, who heads the investigation, said the girl's mother told deputies she learned of the situation from her daughter's friend who lives in another state.

That friend told Harsh he "hacked" into the girl's computer on Dec. 10 and discovered sexually explicit material e-mailed to the girl from someone identified as "Luv2Coach5."

When the girl was interviewed by deputies, she said she met someone in an Internet chat room in November 1997, when she was 11 years old.

According to court records, the girl said that back then, she was "talking" with someone named Steve whom she believed to be about 13 years old.

Those Internet conversations continued until February 1999, when "Steve" told her he was older and admitted he had driven past her home once as she was getting off the bus, court records said.

The girl told deputies that Spalding knew how old she was because he knew she was a schoolmate of his son, court documents alleged.

The first meeting is alleged to have occurred in July after the girl invited him to her home where they sat in her back yard. They met for a second time a week later, according to court records.

Hugging that began during the first visit progressed during other visits to touching, oral sex and at least five incidents of sexual intercourse on a blanket in the back yard of the girl's home, court records alleged.

As a result of the investigation, a search warrant was obtained and evidence was collected from the Spalding home on Dec. 10, deputies said.

The Maryland State Police computer crimes unit was called in to assist with the investigation, Harsh said. On Dec. 22, those investigators told Harsh they had retrieved thousands of pornographic pictures and hundreds of child pornographic pictures from Spalding's computer, court records said.

Calls to Spalding's home weren't returned.

Employed since 1991 by the Washington County Engineering Department, Spalding resigned Jan. 5 from his position as a project manager.

A native of Washington County, Spalding attended local schools and graduated from Towson State University.

He served two terms on the Hagerstown City Council from 1981-1989.

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