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home : top news : top news December 17, 2014

9/5/2013 7:59:00 AM
Kuhl's Sentencing On Federal Child Porn Charges Set For December
John Kuhl
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John Kuhl

Jennifer Hersey Cleveland
Staff Writer

RUTLAND -- A Newport man facing federal child pornography charges will be sentenced in December after a federal judge denied his motion to suppress incriminating statements he made to police.

John Kuhl, 42, who is being detained pending resolution of his case, is charged with two counts in U.S. District Court -- one alleging that he possessed a cell phone containing child pornography and the other alleging that he received two images of child pornography that had been shipped via interstate commerce.

While Kuhl entered a plea agreement with the government Aug. 21, that document is not available to the public through the court's web portal.

Deputy State's Attorney Jim Lillicrap dismissed multiple state charges against Kuhl -- including felony counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and misdemeanor counts of dissemination of indecent material to a child and possession of child pornography -- for the federal case to proceed and to protect the alleged victims from unnecessary exposure.

But on Wednesday, he said those charges would be refiled with the court shortly after the federal case is closed.

In the state's dockets against Kuhl, he's accused of inappropriately touching children -- who were ages 8 to 14 at the time in April 2011 -- and showing them pornographic images on his phone, including a photo of his own genitalia.

Some of the state charges are based on the same alleged conduct for which Kuhl is being prosecuted in federal court. Others are based on violating a protective order obtained by the parents of one girl or conditions of release set in Orleans Superior Court-Criminal Division.



Go Green

Kuhl's sentencing hearing will take place in Rutland on Dec. 10 with Chief Judge Christina Reiss presiding. In the meantime, a federal probation officer will prepare a pre-sentence report.

The mandatory minimum sentence for each of the federal charges is five years in jail with a maximum of 20 years.

Kuhl served as the city of Newport's dockmaster for a short time period.

Kuhl moved to have his incriminating statements made to Det. Jennifer Harlow of the special investigations unit suppressed, claiming that Harlow did not advise him of his Miranda rights while in police custody.

In its opposition to the motion, the federal government included a transcript of Harlow's interview with Kuhl, which documents Harlow repeatedly telling Kuhl he was free to leave, that he was not under arrest, and that he was under no obligation to speak with her.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Masterson argued that no interrogation took place, hence no Miranda warning was triggered. But Judge Reiss didn't buy that argument, since the transcript clearly shows that Harlow did interrogate Kuhl, at times eliciting incriminating statements.

But Reiss did find that Kuhl was not in custody at the time, despite Kuhl's claim that he was effectively under arrest since the interview took place at a police station after a search warrant had been executed at his home.

The mere location of an interrogation is insufficient for a finding that a defendant is in custody, Reiss wrote.

Several facts weigh heavily in the government's favor, Reiss wrote. Kuhl went to the station of his own accord, not due to a directive from police, and in fact did leave the station of his own accord after speaking with Harlow and being cited into court.

The tone of the conversation also comes into play, Reiss wrote, finding that the duration of the interview was short and that the tone was conversational.

"Detective Harlow told Mr. Kuhl that she was not accusing him 'of anything at this point' and did not question his veracity," Reiss wrote.

Kuhl actively participated in the interview, and Harlow did not use threats of arrest or detention to pressure him to speak, instead appealing to his interest in telling the truth, Reiss wrote.

Furthermore, Kuhl was not subjected to the "hallmark of a formal arrest" -- handcuffs, Reiss wrote. Kuhl's movements were not restrained in the least, with two investigators -- Harlow and Department of Children and Families investigator Renee Hall - sitting farthest from the door and at no time touching Kuhl.

Harlow, after hearing from a juvenile girl that Kuhl touched her inappropriately and showed her and three other juveniles adult pornography, seized Kuhl's cell phone more than two years ago, on April 20, 2011.

The transcript of the interview indicates that Kuhl believed that people had been making accusations against him because of a grudge. He said four children making accusations were mean-spirited trouble-makers.

Kuhl admitted there are pornographic images on his phone, and said he was sure Harlow and Hamel were disgusted by them.

He said he likes hanging out with children. "And sometimes they already are little adults," he said.

Kuhl told Harlow and Hamel that the children used his boat as a "toilet" and admitted that he mentioned the hair on an older girl's public area. He said the kids stole his phone, and that's how they saw pornographic images on it.

Kuhl admitted he may have unintentionally touched some of the children inappropriately while trying to get his phone back. "There were probably miscalculations on, you know, my coordinates," he said.

Kuhl told investigators that he bought cell phones for girls and gave them money.

Kuhl expressed concerns that he would face criminal charges and told Harlow it seemed the evidence was stacked against him.





Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014
Article comment by: Joan Babbitt

All Charges were dropped due to the fact that the involved parties were unable to get their stories straight and that the authorities may have been overly involved.



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