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Trial underway for former Little Rock police officer facing federal child pornography charges

Seaton faces federal charges by Dale Ellis | May 23, 2023 at 7:36 a.m.
Eddie Seaton

The trial of a former Little Rock police officer on federal child pornography charges got underway Monday with jury selection and preliminary jury instructions to be followed this morning with opening statements, after which government prosecutors will begin presenting the government's evidence.

Eddie Scott Seaton, 55, of Cabot, was charged in a March 2020 federal indictment with one count each of possession and receipt of child pornography following a Dec. 30, 2019, raid on his home after authorities investigating child sexual exploitation identified an internet protocol address that was registered to Seaton and tied to a download of child pornography earlier that month.

Court records indicated that a forensic analysis of Seaton's desktop computer identified more than 61,000 images of child pornography and erotica that authorities said Seaton had unsuccessfully attempted to erase from the device but were recovered through a technique known as file carving.

Additionally, law enforcement officers discovered hard copies of several handwritten story outlines on the desk next to Seaton's computer that a police investigator said described sex acts involving children. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin Bryant, who along with Assistant U.S. Attorney John Ray White is prosecuting the case, called the handwritten notes in such close proximity to the computer where the images were discovered "very concerning."

During an interview with investigators, Seaton reportedly told officers he was curious about bestiality and Japanese anime porn.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines anime as "a style of animation originating in Japan that is characterized by stark colorful graphics depicting vibrant characters."

Merriam-Webster provides three definitions for bestiality: Sexual relations between a human being and a lower animal; the condition or status of a lower animal; and display or gratification of bestial traits or impulses.

Prior to opening the hearing Monday, Chief U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. filed an order regarding evidence in the case that Bryant and White had requested to use that included the sexually explicit writings found on Seaton's desk, sexually explicit anime images and more than 50,000 images of child erotica that were found on his computer.

Marshall had met with the attorneys Friday to consider the government's motion to include the evidence, which Seaton's lawyer, John Wesley Hall Jr., had opposed. In his opposing motion, Hall had suggested that a man who was living in his car whom Seaton allowed to park in his driveway and use his Wi-Fi signal, Kevin Michael Hicks, had downloaded and distributed images of child pornography that were traced back to Seaton's IP address.

Hicks pleaded guilty in 2021 to one count of possession of child pornography and was sentenced to 84 months in federal prison. A check of the Bureau of Prisons inmate roster showed Hicks is not in custody, raising the possibility that he will testify at Seaton's trial.

An alternate theory forwarded by Hall is the images found on Seaton's computer were placed there by the person Hall said sold the computer to Seaton. That person, whose identity is unclear, is serving a 40-year sentence in Arizona following a conviction on child pornography charges, Hall said.

Marshall ruled that of the several writings found on Seaton's desk, only two could would be considered admissible as the two closely mirrored the conduct depicted on three anime images that form the basis for the receipt of child pornography count against him.

The three images in question, court records said, depict two minor boys having sex with an adult woman. In his order, Marshall said the two writings he allowed in as evidence -- entitled "Two on the Babysitter" and "Tony's Drunk Mom" -- "are relevant to Seaton's motive, intent, and knowledge for the purposes of count one."

Marshall also will allow images of sexually explicit anime recovered from Seaton's computer to be entered into evidence, ruling the fact the images were saved on his computer in the same manner as the child pornography images that are the basis of the possession count bore relevance to the truth of Seaton's defenses as well as his knowledge.

Marshall disallowed more than 50,000 images of child erotica found on Seaton's computer, saying those images did not bear the same relevance to the charged conduct as Seaton never admitted to searching for child erotica and that "the sheer number of these images is unfairly prejudicial." He also barred the government from eliciting testimony related only to the number of images of child erotica.

Bryant told Marshall all of the prosecution witnesses had been instructed to steer clear of any testimony regarding the child erotica images.

At 3:30 p.m. Monday, following more than three hours of voir dire, the pool of 60 prospective jurors was winnowed down to 13 -- 12 jurors and one alternate -- that will sit in and hear the case. After seating the jury, Marshall spent nearly an hour going over the preliminary instructions before sending nine women, three men and the alternate juror home for the night.

Before dismissing the jurors, he polled each one individually to get their assurances they would not discuss the trial with anyone or post anything about the trial on social media until the trial ends and that they would not do any internet research about the case or anyone connected with it.

"Do not read any news about the case," Marshall said. "Either in print, not on the internet or any blog. ... Don't listen to any radio news or watch any television about the case or anyone involved in it."

Marshall suggested jurors might consider taking a "news holiday" for the duration of the trial to avoid any chance they might inadvertently stumble upon news related to the trial.

"I suggest you avoid reading the newspaper -- if you can find one anymore -- or avoid reading it on your iPad," he said. "Avoid watching TV news, the radio newscasts and news on the internet. ... If you receive push notifications on your phone from a news source, do your best to turn them off, maybe find a 12-year-old you know and love who can shut it off for you."

Bryant said the government intends to call six witnesses and could wrap up its case as early as this afternoon, estimating she and White will need four or five hours to present all of the prosecution's evidence. Hall said he plans to call two witnesses before he rests the defense, raising the possibility the case could be in the jury's hands as early as tomorrow morning.

Opening statements are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.

Print Headline: Ex-LR officer’s child porn trial gets underway


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