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Arrest of Sidney man on child porn charges resulted from citizen tips

 

Levi Hallett, 25, of Sidney was arrested last week in connection with alleged possession and manufacture of child pornography. He was charged with five counts of manufacture of child pornography, five counts of possession of child pornography and one count of child abuse by the Cheyenne County attorney's office.

According to arrest records, a probation officer heard second hand that Hallett allegedly stored multiple photos of nude underage females on his cell phone, but none of those who spoke with the officer had actually seen the photos.

Another citizen informant later also contacted police and reportedly told officials that Hallett informed her that multiple underage females had sent him nude photos. Hallett reportedly told the informant that he'd received photos from girls aged 14, 15 and nine. Hallett allegedly told the informant that he'd deleted some of the pictures.

Sidney police received credible information from two independent sources before moving along with the case, according to Sidney police Chief B.J. Wilkinson.

On August 27, police executed a search warrant of Hallett's apartment in Sidney. At this point, a cell phone was seized from Hallett. Police also obtained a search warrant for the account of the phone taken from Hallett.

It is equally as difficult to obtain a search warrant for phone records as it is for anything else, Wilkinson said. Police must prove probable cause and corroborate evidence from multiple sources before moving forward with the case. This works the same as when police obtain a warrant to search a home.

While police were searching Hallett's place of residence, he allegedly admitted to police that while speaking with an adult female three or four months ago, the two discussed the possibility of involving her two-year-old child in sexual activity. Hallett then allegedly admitted that he'd received a nude photo of the child.

On August 28 Police gained access to backlogged digital images and text messages from the cell phone taken from Hallett via his cell provider. In these logs were images of what appeared to police to be close ups of the genital area of a female toddler.

The police had to work with Hallett's cell phone provider to retrieve images that had been deleted from the phone. Cell phone providers often store records for a certain amount of time, so police recovered many images from Hallett's phone. Police searched messages from the device back to July 1, but Hallett allegedly admitted that this activity had been going on for much longer than that, Wilkinson said.

Police found about 40 illegal images in the phone records, in addition to legal nude images of adults.

"Mixed in with those adults were images of children," Wilkinson said.

After police found this evidence, they brought Hallett in for questioning. Hallett reportedly waived his right to an attorney and confessed that he did have nude images of children on his phone. These included images of the two-year-old child of the woman he was dating. He asked the woman to send him images of the child and was reportedly surprised when she complied with his wishes. He also reportedly admitted to speaking about involving the child in the couple's relationship in a sexual way.

Hallett allegedly stated that he had also sent photos of his male child's genitals to the woman he was dating, but denied it was in exchange for the photos she had sent to him. Hallett claimed that the photos of his child were in regards to a diaper rash, but then changed his story when the officer interviewing him claimed there was no visible rash.

Sidney police are trading information with the police in Sterling, where the mother of the female child involved in the investigation resides.

"Levi was sharing pictures back and forth with her," Wilkinson said.

Sterling police and Sidney police are working in conjunction on this case.

"We're supporting that effort down there," Wilkinson said.

Hallett is well known to both the Sidney Police and the Cheyenne County Sheriff's Office, Wilkinson said.

The minor male involved in the case was picked up by police directly following Hallett's arrest.

"We took Levi's son into protective custody," Wilkinson said.

The male minor is now a ward of the state and is being looked after by Health and Human Services.

The woman who allegedly sent the photos to Hallett was arrested by Sterling police under a warrant issued by the Sidney police said Maj. Tyson Kerr, operations commander with the Sterling police.

"The investigation continues into several parties," Kerr added.

The female child in question was removed from any additional potential harm, Kerr stated.

"The child involved is in a safe environment," Kerr said.

Wilkinson praises those who had information about this activity for coming forward, in order to protect the children involved.

"It's interesting and sad that sex crimes are statistically the most underreported crimes in America," Wilkinson said.

Only about 5 to 10 percent of sex crimes are thought to be reported, Wilkinson added. Sex crimes are personal and are about one person exerting power over another, he explained.

"We have kind of a stigma attached to sex crimes in America," Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson encourages current victims and those who know about any sexual abuse to come forward. Wilkinson wants citizens to trust local police enforcement to take care of the matter in a surgical and tactful manner.

"We can't do anything to stop future victimization if we don't have victims today coming forward," Wilkinson said.

Anyone who knows about any type of abuse going on has an obligation to protect the child involved, he said.

"If we have thousands of crimes and only know about dozens of them, we have a problem," Wilkinson added.

Hallett is still in custody and based on his crime, he will have a hard road ahead in prison or jail, Wilkinson said.

"It's a hard spot to find yourself in," Wilkinson said. "Some of those guys need help."

Federal authorities are interested in the case, because it crosses state lines. Officials in Sidney and Sterling will work with federal authorities to ensure that those involved get the maximum punishment time for their crimes.

"Sometimes state laws are more stringent that federal ones," Wilkinson said.

Cheyenne County Attorney Paul Schaub said his office is leaving the door open to prosecute any other individual possibly involved in this case.

 

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