A Cleburne County man charged with attempted enticement of a minor as well as possession and attempted distribution of child pornography was ordered by a federal magistrate judge to remain in jail pending trial on the grounds that he poses too great a danger to the community to be released.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerome Kearney rejected a release plan proposed for Charles Agnew, 39, of Heber Springs, after hearing details of his past convictions and the circumstances of his March 3 arrest by the FBI at a Conway hotel where he is accused of going to meet who he believed to be the mother of two children, ages 7 and 9, for the purpose of having sex with the children. Court records showed that Agnew, who is registered as a Level 3 sex offender, was convicted in 2010 in Lonoke County of possession of child pornography and was sentenced to 72 months in the Arkansas Department of Corrections.
According to a criminal complaint filed March 9, Agnew had been communicating with an undercover police officer in California who was posing as the mother of two children from August 2022 through March 3, shortly before his arrest in Conway. According to the complaint, Agnew had arranged with the undercover officer to meet at a Holiday Inn Express in Conway, and was arrested upon his arrival to the hotel.
Agnew's mother, Nora Dillingham, was proposed to act as his third party custodian by his attorney, Amanda Simmons of the Federal Public Defenders Office in Little Rock. Under questioning, Dillingham said with the exception of time he was in prison, Agnew had always lived with her. She said that Agnew suffers from "a wide spectrum of problems," including bi-polar disorder, Asperger's syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, adult deficit hyperactivity disorder, and low IQ.
"We say [Agnew] is 39 but he's forever 14," Dillingham said.
Dillingham assured Simmons that if Agnew were to violate any terms of his pre-trial release, if granted, that she would ensure the court would be notified.
"If he violates, you won't have to come get him," she said. "I'll bring him to you."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin Bryant asked Dillingham if Agnew had been living at home during the time was committed the acts that resulted in his 2010 conviction.
"Yes," she said, "but I was working full-time."
Dillingham said she is now retired and would be home full-time and able to supervise her son's activities.
But Dillingham, who said she suffers from insomnia, said on March 3, Agnew took her car while she was asleep and when she called him, he told her he was in Conway paying bills.
"So he lied to you?" Bryant asked.
"Yes," she replied.
Josh Pullen, a special agent with the FBI's Little Rock field office, said that before his March 3 arrest, Agnew had sent nude photos of himself to the undercover agent. He also testified that Agnew had told the undercover that he was attracted to a young family member, "but said he was scared." Pullen said messages exchanged between Agnew and the undercover agent contained descriptions of sex acts he said Agnew described wanting to perform on the agent's "children."
Pullen said a search of the vehicle Agnew drove to Conway yielded a Raggedy Ann doll in the back seat and numerous children's books in the trunk and a search of his bedroom turned up a number of photos of children and stuffed animals. He said a manuscript was also found containing more than 100 pages of a story about sexually indoctrinating children that Pullen said was authored by Agnew. Pullen said a search of Agnew's phone turned up a number of photos and videos containing child pornography as well as a recent search for the Holiday Inn in Conway.
Simmons argued that under the supervision of his mother, Agnew would have no access to children or to the internet, would not have access to a vehicle and would not have a phone. She argued that Agnew had no history of failure to appear for court dates or other appointments, that he had never absconded from supervision and that no evidence exists to suggest he had ever personally harmed a child.
Bryant, arguing for custody, disagreed with the proposal.
"He's going back to the same place where he's committed every crime that he's committed in his life," she said, "all involving the sexual exploitation of children."
Although Pullen, under questioning by Simmons, had agreed that none of Agnew's offenses would be considered "hands-on," but instead stemmed from materials gathered from the internet, Bryant expressed concern that his behavior could escalate, especially if his release conditions precluded internet access.
"In this particular case there was internet discussion and then his actual showing up at the hotel prepared to carry through with what had been planned using the internet," Kearney said, as he explained his reasoning for denying Agnew's release. "That does suggest hands-on intentions and the attempt to do so ... I'm not sure a third-party custodian would resolve all the concerns the court has."