Grand jury indicts Victoria man on 8 counts of child pornography
A man who officials said pilfered his neighbor's Wi-Fi connection to collect and send out more than 100 child pornographic images and videos was indicted by a grand jury Thursday.
Jason Terrence Leita, 37, of Victoria, faces eight counts of possession or promotion of child pornography, according to the indictment. He was arrested Aug. 1.
Victoria County Criminal District Attorney Stephen Tyler said his office chose to pursue eight charges instead of more because the presiding judge prefers it that way.
"It's a workable number, all of which have strong evidence," Tyler said.
Leita is accused of exchanging the images with others via a service similar to Napster, which was a website used in the early 2000s to download music. Based in Eastern European countries, it can make arresting a suspect difficult, Tyler said.
"Promotion" means the defendant or suspect was sending the information in some way, but the law says "if you have more than six images (on your computer) you're presumed to be promoting," Tyler said.
Leita was the fourth person arrested by a joint child porn task force comprised of Victoria County sheriff's deputies and Victoria police officers in 2012, said Sgt. Daniel Simons, the task force commander.
Deputies initially searched Leita's neighbor's house June 20. The neighbor had not protected his Wi-Fi with a password. The neighbor has since protected his computer system. Investigators spent about 60 hours in a lab confirming the neighbor's innocence.
Officials tracked down Leita about six weeks later, according to reports.
Tyler said he didn't know how often law enforcement runs into that type of scenario but guessed it was always a possibility, especially because the task force hasn't garnered a caseload in regards to this type of crime in the triple digits yet.
"I think they do great work in trying to protect children in identifying deviants," Tyler said.
Victoria County Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor declined to talk about the specifics of the case but said the task force's work will continue as funding from the budget, grants and a pool of money called the "asset forfeiture" allows.
Tyler said Leita's case will most likely go to trial. During deliberation, jurors will be handed a folder that has the images inside, and they can choose to look at them or not.
"It's not a big spectacle," Tyler said. "A lot of these kids are from overseas. They aren't aware Victoria exists, and some might now be adults. I think holding these people accountable isn't going to re-victimize the kids."
Neither Simons nor O'Connor knew how the number of child pornography or online solicitation of a minor cases found in the Crossroads compared with those reported nationally.
"We're continuing to keep our eyes open," Simons said. "We have a kind of bulldog philosophy around here where we like to latch onto problems and resolve them."
He said that last summer four area law enforcement officials and one Homeland Security officer were investigating a potential 100 cases.
"I will say that I was hoping we wouldn't find as many cases as we found in Victoria, but I knew it was a possibility due to the size of the population and the availability of the Internet," Simons said.
O'Connor reminded parents and guardians to be more alert because social media is more popular.
"If we have one, that's one too many," O'Connor said. "It's important not only for us to realize it's a reality, that this does happen here, but that we also see the significance of educating the general public."