Harris man pleads guilty to child porn crimes; sentencing set

A 33-year-old Harris man has pleaded guilty to half of the 12 felony counts of child pornography charges against him.

It was just more than a year ago when Michael Lawrence Cloud was charged with disseminating and possessing child pornography through the use of computer and electronic equipment from his home.

Michael L. Cloud

Michael L. Cloud

On Aug. 5, he was back in Chisago County District Court where he pleaded guilty to six counts of possession. The guilty plea was offered as an Alford plea, County Attorney Janet Reiter said, so while Cloud did not specifically admit guilt to the details in the complaint, he did admit there is sufficient evidence to prove guilt.

With the admission to the six counts of the complaint, Reiter added, the remaining six counts of the 12-count complaint were dismissed.

A pre-sentence investigation and chemical use assessment were ordered, and sentencing for Cloud is set for Oct. 28.

According to the complaint:

In late December 2011, an officer with the Minneapolis Police Crime Lab used an undercover investigative software to discover about 136 known or suspected child pornography files that were available for download from a host computer running peer to peer software. The officer was able to download six files containing sexually explicit digital images of young girls, appearing from age 6 to 16, from the host computer at a specific IP address.

On Jan. 11, 2012, an administrative subpoena was sent to the Internet provider, which reported Cloud as the subscriber of the IP address at issue. About four months later, the officer, along with several other law enforcement authorities, executed a search warrant at the suspect’s residence in Harris.

Cloud acknowledged he lived alone and no one else had access to the computers or other electronic equipment at his residence. He acknowledged, too, that he installed the peer to peer program on his computer and used it to download images of child pornography. He estimated that thousands of images and videos of child porn, mostly involving children ranging from ages 3 to 14, would be located on discs in his possession.

During the search, several computers, hard drives, floppy disks, flash drives and other items were seized from the residence. Later, a forensic examination of the items revealed a total of 6,647 suspected images and files of child porn on various hard drives and optical discs.

The files containing suspected child pornography were sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for known victim analysis. The center’s initial comparison report identified 1,616 images and videos that depict at least one child previously identified by law enforcement.

The penalty for a single count of disseminating pornographic work is seven years imprisonment and/or a $10,000 fine for a first offense and 15 years imprisonment and/or a $20,000 fine for a second or subsequent offense. The penalty for possessing a pornographic work by computer disk, electronic or magnetic and/or optical image is five years imprisonment and/or a $5,000 fine for a first offense and 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine for a second or subsequent offense.

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