Commonwealth Journal

November 22, 2012

Somerset man hit with child porn charges

By HEATHER TOMLINSON, CJ Staff Writer
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

A Somerset man was arrested on federal child pornography charges after police discovered pornographic images while carrying out a search warrant resulting from a complaint of a hidden camera at his residence.

Eric Whitson, 35, of Cooper Drive, Somerset, was arrested by Somerset Police Department detectives and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents at his home at around 12:20 p.m. Wednesday.

Whitson was arrested on a federal warrant charging with him production of child pornography, possession of child pornography, and receipt of child pornography, according to Lt. Shannon Smith, with SPD.

The arrest came after a two-week joint investigation conducted by SPD and the FBI.

Smith said the case began on November 5 after an alleged adult victim contacted SPD, “saying he believed he discovered a hidden camera in Whitson’s bathroom that was positioned in an inappropriate manner.”

The complaint led to a search warrant being carried out at Whitson’s residence “within hours of the report being filed,” according to Acting Police Chief Major Doug Nelson with SPD. 

“The search produced the hidden camera, along with computers and multiple forms of digital

storage,” Smith said through a press release.

Smith said officers and detectives with SPD “searched through hours of VHS tapes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs and found images suspected to be child pornography.”

“We utilized our patrol division and criminal investigation division to review all those files,” said Smith, who noted that, of the many, many pieces of media seized, “there was a lot of just normal run-of-the-mill computer files and VHS and TV shows.

“We had to make sure that all those files were free of any contraband,” said Smith.

Smith said the investigation is continuing, and he said computers seized in the search have not yet been analyzed.

“There’s still a lot of work left to do,” said Smith.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Eddy Montgomery and his staff assisted in the investigation, according to Smith.

Whitson was transported to the Laurel County Detention Center. He will be arraigned in U.S. District Court. 

Details of Whitson’s case were not publicly available through the U.S. Eastern District Court’s electronic system as of Wednesday afternoon. 

Whitson had been employed through the City of Somerset. 

Smith said Whitson was suspended from his duties after the search warrant was executed, and he said Whitson received a letter of termination shortly thereafter. 

A call placed to Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler seeking confirmation of Whitson’s termination was not returned by press time Wednesday.