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Spalding seeks to exclude evidence taken from home

May 22, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

Washington County Circuit Judge Donald Beachley is expected to rule by next week on whether evidence gathered at former Hagerstown City Councilman Steven Kenneth Spalding's home can be introduced when he is tried on charges he had a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl.

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Spalding also faces child pornography charges.

The judge's ruling also will determine whether a statement he made when police searched his 609 Ravenswood Drive residence is admissable.

During a pre-trial hearing Monday, defense attorney Bruce Poole questioned the legality of the Dec. 10, 1999, search for a personal computer, computer records and other evidence, claiming the application for the search warrant was too broad and lacked probable cause.

"There must be facts, not just conclusions that these things are in the house," Poole said.

Spalding testified at the hearing that Cpl. Roy Harsh of the Washington County Sheriff's Department came to his home Dec. 10 and asked if he knew the alleged victim.

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Spalding said he told Harsh he knew someone by that name.

"I may have asked if she was of legal age," Spalding added, alluding to earlier testimony from Harsh. He said he didn't recall seeing Harsh answer in the negative by shaking his head from side to side.

Spalding made no additional statements that night before he was driven to the Washington County Sheriff's Department, read his Miranda rights and driven home.

Spalding was arrested more than two weeks later, on Dec. 29.

The girl, now 13, was 11 when she began "talking" to someone she met in an Internet chat room, according to allegations in a 16-count grand jury indictment brought against Spalding earlier this year.

Poole argued that while an e-mail to the girl from a person she says was Spalding means a personal computer was used, the search warrant doesn't give evidence that the computer was in Spalding's home.

The time on the e-mail was 10 p.m., which Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Joe Michael said isn't normal business hours.

Poole said the judge who issued the search warrant didn't know what Spalding's work hours were when he approved the search for those items.

The indictment includes allegations of manufacturing computer-generated child pornography, compiling, printing or reproducing by means of a computer images of children in obscene performances, 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.

A trial is scheduled for June 15.

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.

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

Those Internet conversations continued until February 1999.

The first meeting allegedly occurred last July after the girl invited him to her home, where they sat in her back yard and they met for a second time a week later, according to allegations in court records.

The court records alleged that hugging began during the first visit and 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.

As a result of the evidence collected from the Spalding home on Dec. 10, 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 alleged.

Employed since 1991 by the Washington County Engineering Department, Spalding resigned Jan. 5 from his position as a project manager. He's been free on $75,000 bond.

A native of Washington County, Spalding served two terms on the Hagerstown City Council from 1981-1989.

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