A former Little Rock police officer was found guilty Thursday of possession and receipt of child pornography and faces as much as 30 years in prison after a jury deliberated his fate for nearly eight hours over two days following a day and a half of testimony in federal court.
Eddie Scott Seaton, 55, a 13-year veteran of the Little Rock Police Department, sat motionless, hands clenched and a stunned expression on his face as the jury foreman read the two guilty verdicts.
Seaton was indicted on the two counts in March 2020, just more than two months after investigators raided his Cabot home based on a tip from a North Dakota child sex crimes investigator who on Dec. 11, 2019, downloaded a 9½- minute video containing child pornography over the Bit Torrent network from a computer IP address that was traced to Seaton's home.
The next day, court records said, the investigator downloaded a second video and a JPEG image containing child porn from the same IP address. After determining the computer was located in the Little Rock metro area, Little Rock police were notified. After matching the IP address to Seaton's residence, investigators executed a search warrant at his home.
Over the course of testimony during the trial, jurors heard from the North Dakota investigator as well as the former Little Rock detective he contacted to report the computer activity. They also heard from the state police investigator who interviewed Seaton the day his home was searched, and an FBI computer forensics technician who recovered more than 61,000 deleted images of child porn, adult porn and child erotica from Seaton's home computer.
FBI Special Agent Lane Gimnich spent about 45 minutes Tuesday explaining to the jury how a computer filing system files information and what happens to that information when it is deleted from the computer. He also explained how deleted files can be recovered until they are overwritten, which was how many of the files on Seaton's computer were recovered.
Gimnich explained one of the limitations of reviving deleted files from unallocated space on the computer is that most of the data is destroyed, which he said makes it impossible to determine with any certainty when the files were placed on the computer and when they were deleted.
Kevin Hicks, a longtime friend of Seaton's who had lost his apartment in Cabot about two months before the raid at Seaton's home and was parking his truck in Seaton's driveway, also testified, telling jurors that Seaton had asked him how to find child pornography online, which Seaton denied. Hicks was charged in a separate indictment with receipt and possession of child pornography after investigators searching Seaton's home also searched Hicks' truck and found a laptop with videos containing child sexual abuse materials loaded on it.
Hicks pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography and was sentenced to 84 months in prison.
Seaton had harsh words for his former friend as he took the stand Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. At one point, referring to Hicks, Seaton said he would "just as soon pour dirt on him and leave him in the hole," which drew a rebuke from Chief U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr., who cautioned him to avoid extemporaneous statements.
Under questioning by his attorney, John Wesley Hall Jr., Seaton adamantly denied searching for or downloading child pornography, saying at one point that he believed it was Hicks who may have done so. Hicks had admitted to learning the password to Seaton's WiFi router at least two weeks prior to the search of Seaton's home but denied using Seaton's desktop computer, which was not password protected.
At 2:30 p.m., after the jury had deliberated for nearly eight hours over two days, Sherri Black, Marshall's courtroom deputy, stepped into the courtroom.
"We have a verdict," she said to the handful of people already assembled there, then picked up a phone and began summoning the attorneys, the defendant and courtroom staff to the courtroom. Seaton walked in and took his place at the defense table next to Hall, his body tensed and rigid. As the jury filed into the courtroom and took their seats in the jury box, Seaton took several deep breaths, then leaned forward in his chair with his hands folded in his lap and his shoulders hunched forward as he eyed the jury.
"Verdict No. 1," the jury foreman said. "We the jury find Eddie Scott Seaton guilty of knowingly receiving an obscene visual depiction portraying a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct that is charged in Count 1 of the indictment."
As the jury foreman read the verdicts, Seaton's face sagged and turned pale, a stunned expression momentarily crossing his face before he regained his composure.
"Verdict No. 2," the foreman said. "We the jury find Eddie Scott Seaton guilty of knowingly possession of child pornography as charged in Count 2 of the indictment."
While the verdicts were being read, several deputies with the U.S. Marshals Service entered the courtroom, taking up positions on either side of the gallery.
At Hall's request, Marshall polled the jurors individually, with each juror confirming in turn their individual guilty votes.
As the jury was polled, Seaton looked briefly toward his wife, seated with a family member in the gallery, then turned back toward the jury box, his lips pursed and a vein pulsing at his temple before leaning back in his chair and turning his gaze upward to stare fixedly at the ceiling.
After thanking jurors and asking them to meet with him for a few minutes in the jury room, Marshall released the nine women, three men and one alternate and turned back toward the courtroom.
"Anything else to cover?" he asked Bryant.
"The possession of child pornography count is mandatory detention," she said, "so we would ask that he be taken into custody."
Turning to Hall, the defense attorney told the judge Seaton's record on pre-trial release since his indictment had been good and he asked that Marshall consider allowing him to remain free until his sentencing hearing.
After Bryant said she intends to recommend prison for Seaton, Marshall ordered him taken into custody.
"The law requires detention in these circumstances with only a few exceptions," Marshall told Seaton, as he prepared to exit the courtroom. "The marshals will allow you to say goodbye to your wife and friends, and I'll see you in a few months for sentencing."