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Conway detective facing child porn charges gets pretrial release

by Dale Ellis | April 30, 2022 at 3:24 a.m.
Great Seal of Arkansas in a court room in Washington County. Thursday, June 21, 2018,

A Conway police detective arrested on federal child pornography charges was released on bond to await trial in the matter after a federal magistrate judge rejected a prosecutor's argument for keeping the man locked up.

William Adam McNeal, 38, of Conway was arrested April 14 by federal authorities on a complaint accusing him of possession of child pornography and access with intent to view. According to a probable cause affidavit filed in federal court on April 15, McNeal was arrested as part of an ongoing investigation that began after the arrest of a North Carolina man investigators there believed to have participated in group chats in an online chat room devoted to the exchange of child pornography.

In court Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin Bryant argued that McNeal, who has been with the Conway Police Department for nine years, had expressed suicidal ideations following his arrest and that he was subject to numerous stressors related to the conduct he is charged with. Her objections to release, she said, were based upon a pretrial services report and statements McNeal's wife made to police the day he was arrested that Mr. McNeal could pose a danger to himself raised concerns regarding his suitability for pretrial release.

"The court could consider the potential of him hurting himself in the context of assessing his possibility of non-appearance," Bryant said. "In this case Mr. McNeal likely will lose his job, he no longer gets to live with his family, he has previously expressed suicidal ideations and I think the court can consider that in determining if he is a risk of flight."

Bryant also asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe Volpe to consider McNeal's law enforcement experience, which she said raised the possibility that he could have knowledge to circumvent efforts by the U.S. Probation Office to keep tabs on him.

"So you're arguing that he might harm himself in the absence of [pretrial detention]?" Volpe asked. "That's an interesting ... "

"I have some cases if the court would like to read them and consider that as a risk of non-appearance issue," Bryant quickly interjected. "I know it's a stretch but I wanted to make that argument."

"It's a fair argument," Volpe said. "I just haven't heard that argument before."

Throughout the hearing, McNeal, who was escorted into the courtroom by federal marshals from the Pulaski County jail, sat with his head down and did not look at or interact with family members seated in the gallery.

McNeal's attorney, Lott Rolfe IV of North Little Rock, offered a release plan that involved placing McNeal in the custody of his wife's mother and her husband in Forrest City, about two hours from Conway.

Michael Grisham testified that he has known McNeal for about three years and that he and his wife were willing to serve as third-party custodians while McNeal awaits trial.

McNeal's wife, Jennifer McNeal, testified that allowing her husband to be released to the Grisham's would allay possible safety concerns.

"I thought it might be a little safer for Adam to not be in Conway based on him being a police officer and it being all over the news," Jennifer McNeal said in court Friday.

Grisham acknowledged that he would notify the probation office should McNeal violate any conditions of his release.

"Even if that means he would go back to jail?" Rolfe asked him.

"That's part of the game," Grisham said.

Grisham said McNeal would stay in a small outbuilding on the property which he described as his wife's "she shed," a 10 foot square building equipped with shower, toilet, sink and bed.

"Everything you need," he said.

According to the April 15 affidavit, McNeal's name surfaced during an investigation in North Carolina that led to an online chatroom that appeared to be used primarily for distribution of child pornography.

During several days of monitoring the chatroom, the affidavit said, investigators observed the exchange of hundreds of files containing videos and images of child pornography and hyperlinks to other sources of child pornography posted online. While researching the identities of the chatroom users, the affidavit said, McNeal was identified as one of the participants.

In announcing his decision, Volpe said although his conduct was illegal, it did not appear that McNeal was actively engaged in victimizing children, that there was no evidence to suggest he had produced child sexual abuse material himself or encouraged others to do so.

"I've locked up individuals for being in positions of trust -- particularly police officers -- based on that [trust]," Volpe said. "In those cases it's a violation of public trust based on corruption ... but there's more of a prurient interest here than betrayal of the public trust."

But Volpe cautioned McNeal that he would be kept on a short leash.

"You're going to be under stringent conditions and any violations will have you right back in here,." the judge said. "It'll be a fast trip back here and you'll wait in county jail for your trial."


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