BRATTLEBORO -- A Guilford man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to five felony counts of possessing child pornography.
But police contend 35-year-old Justin Bywater acknowledged downloading child-porn videos for years and only recently tried to delete all such files from a computer at his Weatherhead Hollow Road home.
"He has done this before in the past and has tried to stop but described it as an addiction," police wrote in an affidavit filed in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division.
The investigation into Bywater's alleged conduct began in late August when Detective Matthew Raymond, a criminal investigator with the Vermont attorney general's office, identified an Internet protocol (IP) address "as a potential download candidate (source) of files of investigative interest," court documents say.
Raymond said he downloaded at least 12 files containing child pornography from that IP address, which -- through a subpoena issued to Comcast -- was traced to Bywater's home.
Last week, Raymond obtained a search warrant for the home and found a computer on which "there were registry entries containing file names consistent with child pornography," the affidavit says.
Investigators then went to Bywater's workplace and told him that they were "conducting an investigation regarding some downloads and uploads from his house," court documents say.
"He advised that he got rid of them all," Raymond wrote. "I asked what he was referring to, (and) he admitted that he has downloaded some things that he shouldn't have.
Bywater allegedly told police that he "began downloading music and then got into pornography," the affidavit says. "It was in the past couple of years that he began downloading child pornography."
In particular, police contend, Bywater said he was interested in pornography depicting females aged 12 to 16.
Bywater claimed he had "stopped downloading in August of this year and deleted all his files," the affidavit says. But on a computer seized from Bywater's home, investigators said they found five videos depicting child pornography.
Police cited Bywater on Friday and he appeared for arraignment Tuesday in Brattleboro. His defense attorney, Jesse Corum, noted that his client has "no prior criminal record" and has steady employment.
A computer at Bywater's workplace, Corum said, is not connected to the Internet.
That's important for Bywater's conditions of release pending the outcome of his case. He is forbidden to access the Internet; also, he cannot possess or use any device that has Internet access.
Bywater is allowed to have contact with minors -- including juvenile family members -- but only in the presence of another adult.
Evan Meenan, a Vermont assistant attorney general who handled the arraignment, said the videos in question are "very graphic."
"A number of videos ... involve children as young as 7 years old," Meenan told the judge.
Vermont State Police participated in the investigation, which is not yet over: Meenan said officials continue to investigate Bywater's computer equipment and might file additional charges.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.