A Juneau resident was indicted Friday on possession and distribution of child pornography charges, the result of a four- to five-month long investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies.
Nicholas V. Miller, 38, is charged with five counts of possession and nine counts of distributing the illegal images, according to the indictment.
According to a police affidavit, law enforcement seized approximately 1,000 images and videos depicting child sexual exploitation off his computer and related digital items.
“That’s a high number ... that’s a significant amount for a child pornography case,” Marika Athens, the statewide cyber crimes prosecutor with the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Miller reportedly shared and downloaded the images for a number of years before being caught, he confessed to police in an interview in July, according to the affidavit.
“Miller stated that he was ‘sick in the head’ and further stated ‘every other part of me is normal’,” Alaska State Trooper Terrence Shanigan wrote in the complaint, describing the interview.
Ofttimes, cyber crimes are referred to as being ‘victimless crimes,’ but that’s not the case, Athens said. Victims in the images and videos are re-traumatized ‘every time someone new has their image,’ she said.
“We are dealing with a lot of victims here even though it’s an online crime,” she said.
Alaska State Troopers came across Miller’s computer’s IP address as they were searching for people in Alaska sharing files that were known to be child pornography on peer-to-peer file sharing networks, which allows people to trade pictures between their computers.
Using undercover investigative software, law enforcement can keep track of the most common child pornography images and see which IP addresses have downloaded them and have made them available for sharing, Athens said.
Shanigan said in his affidavit that using the undercover software in April 2012, he found one such IP address and made direct contact with it, allowing him to download some of the illegal images and videos. He learned the address was located in Juneau and hosted by General Communications, Inc. (GCI) by using the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) network.
The Anchorage Police Department was conducting their own investigation searching peer-to-peer networks and came across the same IP address, a case which Shanigan said he learned about in May, the affidavit states. The APD was also able to make direct contact with the address and download a video.
That was enough information to get a subpoena to compel GCI to turn over subscriber data information, which identified Miller as the subscriber, the affidavit alleges.
Investigators executed a search warrant at Miller’s house in July and recovered his electronic data, which led to the criminal charges.
The Juneau Police Department assisted in the investigation by conducting drive-by surveillance of Miller’s home to see if his wireless network was secure by requiring a password to log-in, which it was.
All the officers involved in this case are members of the Alaska Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which is a federally funded program which fosters cooperation between agencies in investigating such cases, Athens said.
Miller was originally charged in September, and the case was to be handled in Anchorage. He was indicted by a grand jury in Juneau since that’s where he resides, Athens said. The case has been transferred to Juneau and is now assigned to Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg.
Miller previously posted bail, and he is not currently in custody, Athens said. He is due in court to be arraigned in Superior Court at a later date, which has not been scheduled yet, she said.
Court records indicated Miller is represented by defense attorney Julie Willoughby, who declined to comment about the case on Tuesday.
There have been less than five similar cases in Juneau in the past three years, said Athens, who is the first person to hold her title since the position was created by the Legislature a few years ago. She currently has a total of about 20 active cases encompassing Anchorage, Kenai, Fairbanks and Juneau. The case load includes online enticement cases also.
While the images found on Miller’s computer “will no longer be contributing to the marketplace,” Athens said it’s impossible to erase the digital images of child pornography, except on a case-by-case basis.
“Once a picture is made digital, you have no control over it,” she said, adding, “(Law enforcement) would love to take (the pictures) off, but basically they can only do it one user at a time.”
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.