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McKee case turned over to prosecutors

August 16, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

Six months after investigators searched the Halfway home of then-Maryland Del. Robert A. McKee following a telephoned tip alleging they might find child pornography, the case is in the hands of prosecutors, Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said.

No charges had been filed in the case, which was turned over to the U.S. Attorney's office and the Washington County State's Attorney's office, Mullendore said last week.

"On a federal level, things go at a very slow pace," Mullendore said.

Washington County State's Attorney Charles Strong said Friday that his office is involved with the sheriff's department in the investigation.

Strong said he hoped decisions on whether charges would be filed, and if so which office would handle any such filing, would be made within 30 days.

Representatives from the U.S. Attorney's office have been working closely with McKee's attorney in an attempt to arrive at a plea bargain, Mullendore said. Such negotiations can take more than a year, he said.

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The investigation alone took about four months because it involved searching for information on computers and investigators had to sort through a lot of information, Mullendore said.

Agents from the FBI's cyber crimes unit were brought in to work on the case at the recommendation of the Washington County State's Attorney's Office, Mullendore has said.

No charges had been filed against McKee as of Friday, said Marcy Murphy, public affairs specialist for U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein's office in Baltimore.

It is not unusual for investigations involving computer crimes to take longer than other cases, said William Sondervan, professor and director of Criminal Justice, Investigative Forensics, and Legal Studies at the University of Maryland University College. Sondervan spoke in general terms about computer crime and not specifically about the case involving McKee.

At the federal level, prosecutors handle a lot of cases, and often try to arrive at plea bargains to avoid the time and expense of a trial, Sondervan said.

McKee, in a telephone conversation Thursday with The Herald-Mail, said he was advised by his attorney not to talk to the media.

McKee announced his resignation from Maryland's House of Delegates and from his position as executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washington County on Feb. 15, the same day news broke that Washington County Sheriff's Department investigators had searched his home.

McKee, 59, had served in the Maryland House of Delegates since 1995. He was in his fourth term representing Subdistrict 2A, which includes parts of Washington County outside the City of Hagerstown.

During a Feb. 15 press conference, Mullendore said his department received a telephone call on Jan. 31 from someone who alleged that child pornography could be found in McKee's home. Investigators with a search warrant went to McKee's home about 10 p.m. that same day, Mullendore said.

During the search, investigators seized two computers, about 30 videotapes and a "significant amount" of printed material, including magazines, Mullendore said at the time.

In Maryland, for cases involving possession, the standard for material to be considered child pornography is that which depicts a sexual act, or anything that would cause arousal, involving a child younger than 16.

In a faxed statement released Feb. 15, McKee described the situation as "deeply embarrassing," and said he had instructed his counsel to cooperate with law enforcement.

That statement also said that McKee had entered treatment.

"My primary focus is to get well and stay well," he said in the statement. "I know this can only happen with the support and prayers of my family and friends and the help of professionals."

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, served on the local delegation with McKee. He said last week that he occasionally sees his former colleague at church, but hasn't had contact with him beyond that.

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