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Fired patrolman faces child porn charges

(ran PC edition of Pasco Times)

The former officer is accused of using a department laptop to view images from the Internet.

Fired Crystal River Police Department Patrolman Charles "Spig" Veal was arrested Tuesday on four counts of possession of child pornography.

Accompanied by his father, Veal surrendered at the Citrus County Detention Center where he was arrested by Crystal River Sgt. Michael Klyap. He was booked and released after posting $200 of a $2,000 bail.

"It's a very sad event," said Crystal River Police Chief James Farley, a 30-year veteran in law enforcement. "I can't recall any officer being charged or dismissed for any similar charge. I just want the whole thing to go away."

The arrest culminates a 19-day investigation that began on Oct. 12 when Veal told Farley he had used a department laptop computer to view obscene images downloaded from the Internet, Farley said. Farley immediately launched an internal investigation that resulted in Veal's firing a week later.

In the course of the investigation, he also suspended Patrolwoman Mary Webb for three days and demoted her from corporal for not informing him about the floppy disk containing the child pornography. Veal, who had a previous incident of sexual misconduct at the department, said he forgot to remove the disk from a patrol car he was using, Farley said.

There is no evidence that Veal, 35, attempted to distribute or market the pictures or that other city police officers were involved in similar activities, Assistant State Attorney Willard Pope said. Farley confirmed Tuesday that as part of the investigation he had all the department's laptops checked out for evidence of child pornography.

Veal, who is the father of a young child, could not be reached for comment. A woman answering the phone at his Crystal River residence hung up when a Citrus Times reporter called.

The official charge against Veal is possession or representation of sexual conduct by a child, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Pope, who received the city's internal investigation on Friday, said he reviewed 12 pictures. Four of them clearly met the definition of child pornography while the others could be classified as erotica, he said.

The pictures are not photographs but images, said Pope. At least one of the four images that led to charges was seized during a search of Veal's home, Farley said.

Pope said he cannot remember prosecuting a local police officer, although he is investigating Citrus County sheriff's Deputy George Johnson for hitting and killing a pedestrian on a dark county road last year while off-duty.

Veal is scheduled to appear in Citrus County Circuit Court on Feb. 28.

Pope credited Farley with conducting a swift investigation, saying most agencies try to "clear their dirty laundry," quickly.

After Veal's arrest, Farley shed light on the investigation, which also raised the troubling question of why Veal was rehired in 1995 after losing his job the year before for misconduct.

After leaving the floppy disk behind, Veal "realized he had a problem and told me about it," Farley said. "He was visibly upset. He was apologetic. He said, "I made a big mistake.' "

Veal, who had a total of 13 years with force, did not offer to resign and was placed on paid suspension pending the results of the investigation. Shift schedules were checked to find the officer who would have followed Veal in the police car. That led to Webb.

According to Farley, Webb, 45, discovered the disk and the images but hid the evidence in her locker. Webb, one of three female officers in the 20-member department, was the only female on that shift, he said.

"She told me . . . she wasn't trying to protect Veal," Farley said. "She was afraid of being the one responsible for ruining another officer's career."

But an incident from five years ago left Farley wondering why Veal was given another opportunity to wear a Crystal River badge.

In 1994, then-Police Chief Roger Krieger came into the possession of several nude photos taken by Veal of himself in which he is holding his genitalia in the department's locker room, Farley said. Veal's ex-wife, the only person who knew about the photos, slipped them to the department during their divorce, he said.

Veal, who was a sergeant in 1994, resigned. But he was rehired 13 months later when Krieger was city manager and the department was headed by then-Police Chief Robert Barchiesi.

Barchiesi could not be reached for comment. Krieger, a juvenile detention official in Marion County, would not comment. Asked why Veal was rehired, he said, "I really don't care to discuss it."

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