Friday August 16, 2013

BOB AUDETTE

Brattleboro Reformer

BRATTLEBORO -- Documents filed in U.S. District Court reveal two men arrested in a raid on 213 Birge Street Tuesday are being charged with possessing child pornography.

David "Gunner" Schnyer, 77, and his son Ralph Schnyer, 36, had an initial appearance in a Burlington courtroom Wednesday afternoon and were subsequently released on their own recognizance with pre-trial conditions.

The Reformer originally reported the service of a search warrant occurred at a home on Holden Street, but it was actually at the Birge Street residence. Because of the location of the residence at the intersection of Birge and Holden streets, there were initially conflicting reports as to the exact address.

The investigation began on Oct. 17, 2012, when a Homeland Security Investigations agent using the Ares peer-to-peer file sharing network identified a computer suspected of being used to download at least 20 files containing child pornography.

The agent was able to download five files from the computer.

"I viewed each of these files and, in my opinion; they each contain child pornography," noted the agent.

Searching publicly available records, the agent determined the IP address of the computer was assigned to FairPoint Communications, which revealed the computer under suspicion was registered to a resident of 213 Birge St. A second IP address at the same residence was identified as being used to download and share child pornography. Further investigation revealed the images and videos were of prepubescent males and females.

At approximately 11:40 a.m. on Aug. 13, special agents and members of the Brattleboro Police Department served a search warrant on the residence. Once inside, they observed four occupants, each holding a pit bull by a collar.

Both Ralph and David Schnyer were advised of their Miranda rights and agreed to speak to investigators.

Ralph Schnyer told investigators that he once observed his father viewing child pornography on his own computer. After seeing the child pornography on his father’s computer he purchased a thumb drive and, without his father’s knowledge, accessed his computer and copied child pornography to the thumb drive. He also admitted that he used the Ares network in the past to obtain child pornography and that he was aware that other Ares users could access his shared files until he removes them from the shared folder, according to court documents.

"He also told us that he is sexually attracted to young boys and girls ages 10 and up. He said that he is addicted to viewing child pornography (and) that he has a collection of approximately 10,000 files (images and videos) on his desktop computer," noted the agent.

"Ralph Schnyer also admitted that approximately one week ago he warned his father that he should delete his collection of child pornography because he had heard that HSI agents were asking neighbors about him."

David Schnyer told investigators that he has also used the Ares network to download music and child pornography.

"When asked if he knew that possessing nude images of children under the age 18 is illegal, he stated, ‘Yes, I know, I’m screwed.’"

Two computers were removed from the residence and a forensic analysis revealed multiple files containing child pornography.

A witness to the serving of the search warrant told the Reformer that at least six rifles and nine handguns were taken from the house, but were returned after the two men were led away in shackles.

The Brattleboro Police Department took at least four dogs from the house, said another witness.

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.

HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.