After a hearing, United States Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy found that Nelson would present a danger to the community if released on bond and entered an order holding Nelson in federal custody without bond pending trial. The federal charges brought against Nelson are the result of an investigation conducted by the Pearland and Houston Police Departments, the Texas City office of the FBI and the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children task force. Nelson has pleaded not guilty to the charges and trial is set for April 26.
The court's decision is based upon testimony presented during today's hearing that in February 2009, an officer with the Houston Police Department Juvenile Sex Crimes Unit accessed a file sharing program. The officer found that a computer, later traced to Pearland, Texas, had 74 files available for sharing. According to testimony, most of the files appeared to be child pornography and some of which matched known child pornography images. Further investigation lead investigative officers to Pearland and ultimately the home of Nelson where a search warrant was executed in August 2009.
The court heard testimony about the recovery of a computer, additional hard drives, a Kodak digital camera, magazines that contained photos of nude juveniles and approximately 200 35 mm slides of a nude female juvenile seized during the search. The camera contained a memory card with images of a nude prepubescent boy and a young teen boy taken in 2004 and 2005. The majority of the 5,000 images and 100s of videos were found on a desktop with an external hard drive attached and a second loose hard drive.
Each count of production of child pornography carries a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years up to a maximum of 30 years of imprisonment and maximum fine of $250,000, upon conviction. Possession and attempted distribution of child pornography, upon conviction, carry statutory penalty ranges of up to 10 years and a minimum of five years up to 20 years, respectively. A conviction for any of these offenses also carries the imposition of any number of years up to a maximum of a life term of supervised release during which the court can impose a number of special conditions designed to protect children. There is no parole in the federal system and terms of supervised release are served upon completion of any prison term imposed.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice.