Van Hollen: Investigators who delayed child porn cases out

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – A Wisconsin Justice Department agent and her supervisor are out of their jobs after an internal investigation found they let child pornography cases languish for months, allowing at least one suspect to allegedly sexually assault a child before he was apprehended, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said Wednesday.

Justice officials declined to identify the two employees, saying only that the agent was a woman and the supervisor was a man. Van Hollen would not specify in an interview whether they had been fired or had resigned, saying he didn’t want to violate any personnel policies. But he called both of them “extremely negligent.” He said they no longer had jobs at the Justice Department as of Wednesday morning and their cases have been reassigned to other agents.

“(They have) caused or contributed to further victimization,” Van Hollen said in an interview. “And that is, by anybody’s standards, wholly unacceptable. Those employees have been dealt with appropriately.”

Van Hollen has prided himself on expanding the department’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit since he took office in 2007. But the unit has taken intense criticism in recent weeks after word broke that delays in following up on at least three child pornography cases may have given two suspects time to allegedly assault two boys and led to a lighter sentence for another suspect.

The Racine Journal Times reported this month that in December 2012, a DOJ agent identified an Internet address that was distributing child pornography.

The case was assigned in February 2013 but a search warrant wasn’t executed until this past February. After Samuel Hawkins was arrested, he confessed to inappropriately touching an 11-year-old boy the weekend before the warrant was executed at his Racine home, according to a criminal complaint. He now faces multiple felonies, including first-degree sexual assault of a child and possession of child pornography. His attorney, Katie Gutowski, didn’t immediately return a message.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, meanwhile, reported this month that the department received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2010 that a Milwaukee man might have downloaded at least 28 images of child pornography. No one did anything with the tip for more than three years. Agents finally reviewed the tip in January – nine days after Christopher Kosakoski was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy. Kosakoski faces 13 felonies. His attorney, Daryl Kastenson, declined to comment.

The Journal Sentinel also reported last month that the Justice Department got a tip from NECMEC in March 2011 alleging a Pewaukee man had distributed nearly 200 images of child pornography via Facebook. The newspaper reported the agency didn’t notify the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department until April 2013.

The sheriff’s department executed a search warrant at Robert Turk’s home in June. Turk’s attorney argued the information in the warrant was “dated and stale.” Prosecutors initially charged Turk with five felonies, and he ultimately pleaded to three lesser ones and avoided registering as a sex offender.

DOJ’s internal investigation found the woman agent and her supervisor were responsible for the delays in the Hawkins and Turk cases. The probe revealed that the two failed to review or prioritize their cases, allowing them to sit on their desks indefinitely, Van Hollen said. The attorney general declined to comment on whether the woman or her supervisor offered any explanation.

It’s unclear how many of their cases have languished, for how long and whether the delays have had any additional consequences. Van Hollen didn’t have any numbers and said investigators are evaluating the two’s files to determine how much urgency each individual case deserved.

Also unclear is who was responsible for the Kosakoski delay, but Van Hollen insisted the delays aren’t what he termed “systemic.” The investigation determined no other agents had been letting their cases languish without prioritizing them, he said.

“With the exception of the two agents being dealt with,” Van Hollen said, “every single of our agents does a phenomenal job.”

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