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Published: Tuesday, 12/5/2000

Jailer accused of child porn

BY BRIAN DUGGER AND ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
<xh>Dale Matthews has been an officer in Seneca County since 1994. According to his personnel file, he was promoted to patrol officer in March, 1995, but later demoted to correction officer. He has been placed on administrative leave. <xh>Dale Matthews has been an officer in Seneca County since 1994. According to his personnel file, he was promoted to patrol officer in March, 1995, but later demoted to correction officer. He has been placed on administrative leave.
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TIFFIN - A Seneca County correction officer has been charged with pandering obscenity after a raid at his home uncovered a significant amount of child pornography, including pornography of local children.

According to Jennifer Detwiler, a spokeswoman for the Ohio attorney general's office, officers from the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation searched the home of Dale Matthews on Friday and seized a computer, computer equipment, and images. She confirmed that there were images of local children but could not say how Mr. Matthews obtained those photos.

Originally jailed in Seneca County, Mr. Matthews, 37, was transferred to Hancock County because of his employment at the Seneca County jail. He was released on his own recognizance from that jail Saturday afternoon after a hearing before visiting Judge B. Mark Davis.

At an appearance yesterday in Tiffin Municipal Court, a preliminary hearing was set for Jan. 15 at 10:15 a.m. A grand jury will hear the case tomorrow.

Mr. Matthews could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The fact that he is out of jail after the brief hearing before Judge Davis concerns and angers officials. Seneca County Prosecutor Ken Egbert, Jr., said city or county prosecutors were not notified of the bond hearing.

“The city prosecutor was not even present. These are felony charges,” he said. “They can have the hearing, but if the state's not represented, that's a problem. ... How's that a fair hearing?''

He said that while a 48-hour hearing must be done to determine probable cause, a bond hearing is not necessary and could have been delayed until Monday when both sides could offer input.

“It is certainly a concern to us. We can't imagine why they released him,” Ms. Detwiler said. “We certainly are very concerned this person is out among the population, given the evidence.”

Judge Davis, who has been an acting judge for 12 years, defended his action, saying the bond was set after he did a thorough review of the evidence.

A judge can set a person free on his own recognizance if he is determined not to be a flight risk.

“My decision on bond is based on my reading of the law. Bond is simply designed to make sure the person appears in court,” he said. “I can't make my decision based on if someone's feelings are going to be hurt. ... You have to keep in mind that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty”

Tiffin attorney Dean Henry said he was surprised to hear that the prosecutor had a problem with the way the hearing was run.

“In my 11 years as an attorney here, I have never had a prosecutor present during a weekend 48-hour hearing,” he said. “That has been the practice in this county for years. I don't understand why this is such a big issue now.”

Mr. Henry said his client was innocent and that the charges only related to downloading images from the Internet.

Mr. Matthews has been an officer in Seneca County since 1994. According to his personnel file, he was promoted to a patrol officer in March, 1995.

However, he was later demoted to a correction officer. Sheriff H. Weldin Neff said he did not know the reason for the demotion.

Sheriff Neff said the officer has been placed on administrative leave, and the department is working with the union to determine any further action.

He had little reaction to the officer's arrest.

“I have no personal contact with him outside the office. What has occurred within the office is strictly professional,'' Mr. Neff said.



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