An Auburn’s man’s case concerning the production of child pornography is being forwarded to a grand jury after Lee County District Judge Steven Speakman found probable cause after a preliminary hearing Wednesday.
David Barkley “Chip” Johnson, 58, was arrested and charged with five counts of production of pornography with minors in April 2021 after the Auburn Police Division received a complaint in reference to crimes possibly involving juvenile victims and began an investigation, police said.
Lt. James Pescia with the APD testified that police had served a search warrant of Johnson’s home and found 12-15 pictures of two children who appeared to be under the age of 12 after police received a sexual abuse survivor proof of claim document from the Boy Scouts of America in March that provided information regarding the sexual abuse of a child more than 25 years ago.
Pescia testified that after he began investigating the claims he was able to find three other reports filed between Feb. 2000 and July 2008 that were all similar in nature and was also able to contact one of the victims.
“[All of the reports] detailed allegations of sexual child abuse with the victims being former acqaintences of the defendant,” Pescia testified.
The five charges currently levelled against Johnson concern Polaroid photographs allegedly taken of two children, both appearing to be under the age of 12 at the time the photographs were taken, who were depicted in states of undress, Pescia testified.
The photos were found in a box located in the closet of a guest bedroom at Johnson’s home that was filled with numerous photos depicting Boy Scout camping trips, family photos and “multiple photographs depicting children under the age of 17 engaged in genital nudity,” Pescia testified.
From the photographs of the two children, Auburn police were able to identify them as the victims from the reports they had received, and they proceeded to interview Johnson.
Pescia testified that he personally interviewed Johnson, who was able to identify the location the photos were taken as well as who the photos depicted and allegedly told Pescia the photos were “all in good fun.”
“He consistently said he knew it looked bad but he can’t explain it. [That’s] how he made statements to me during most of the interview,” Pescia said.
Defense Attorney Bobby Poole questioned Pescia on whether the photographs met the definition of “lewd,” as is necessary to justify a production of child pornography charge.
Lee County Assistant District Attorney Cathey Berardi argued that it should be up to a jury to decide whether the photographs were lewd in nature, and that probable cause had been met.
While a date for Johnson’s charges to go up to a Lee County grand jury has not yet been set, Pescia said Auburn police’s investigation into Johnson was still ongoing as it related to other potential charges and victims.
After Johnson’s arrest in April, Daniel Chesser, the public relations coordinator with Auburn City Schools, said the school system was cooperating with law enforcement officials in the investigation, and that the school system did “not have any indication that the arrest is related to the students or schools in our system.”