Setting free a Biloxi man accused of possessing child pornography, who also has a penchant for alcohol, struck Magistrate Judge John C. Gargiulo as a bad idea.
Gargiulo instead ordered Monday that Christopher Bryan Smith, 44, stay locked up until trial. Smith lives on Keesler Circle, down the street from Biloxi Upper Elementary School and in a neighborhood filled with children, a witness told the judge.
Special Agent Wes Anthony of Homeland Security Investigations testified that officers recovered a computer hard drive from Smith’s home that included pornographic videos of children under 12 years old. Homeland Security got a warrant to search his house in July after identifying Smith’s Internet address as receiving child pornography.
Anthony said numerous videos were recovered and sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which was able to identify some of the videos and victims.
“Our evidence showed he actively pursued these videos, which would indicate child exploitation,” Anthony testified.
He also said Smith had been convicted on several DUI charges, from 1999 through 2005, and admitted to being a daily drinker.
In 14 years, Anthony said, he’s been involved in many child exploitation cases and saw only one alleged offender released pending trial.
That offender lost his freedom after he was caught masturbating while he watched children outside his front door, Anthony said. In all the other cases, he said, defendants have been jailed until trial.
“When someone is looking at charges like these,” Anthony told the judge, “the stress involved and the uncertainty could cause them to act out.”
He said at least 59 Biloxi school students live in the immediate area of Smith’s house, with 29 of those on Keesler Circle.
Smith’s attorney, Jim Halliday, had hoped his client would be placed under house arrest with a GPS monitor, but Gargiulo wasn’t willing to take that chance. He said he felt that Smith, who recently lost his job at Walmart, poses a risk to the community.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Jones said the charge against Smith carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Smith’s trial has tentatively been set for the criminal calendar that begins March 12.