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Columbus police say soldier admitted possessing child porn on computer

An Army soldier charged with downloading and sharing a cache of child pornography admitted to storing hundreds of images on his personal computers but told detectives only 5 percent of the collection depicted children, investigators said.

Staff Sgt. Leonard C. Talley Jr., 33, was jailed Tuesday on one felony count of sexual exploitation of children. He pleaded not guilty Wednesday at a preliminary court hearing.

After finding probable cause, Recorder’s Court Judge Mary Buckner set a bond of $15,000 and bound the case to Superior Court.

A Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent monitoring peer-to-peer file sharing networks allegedly downloaded more than 900 images and movies from an account traced to Talley’s IP address. Of those, at least 400 are thought to contain child pornography, authorities said.

Detective Sandra Hickey of the Columbus Police Department said she viewed at least 10 images in Talley’s collection that contained child pornography. She said the stash -- stored on four computers and two external hard drives -- was too voluminous to be cataloged during the execution of a search warrant.

The computers were seized and taken to a GBI crime lab for further analysis, Hickey said.

At least one federal agent participated in the search of Talley’s Schomburg Road apartment, an indication that the case could yield federal charges. Compared to state charges, federal statutes related to child pornography typically call for longer prison terms without parole.

Similar case

The charges against Talley bear strong resemblance to the case of Kenneth Allen Ballard, a Salem, Ala., man who was sentenced in January to 17½ years in federal prison after a jury convicted him of receiving and distributing child pornography. In both cases, undercover agents allegedly downloaded child pornography from the defendants via Limewire, a file-sharing program.

Ballard maintained his innocence throughout a four-day jury trial in Opelika, Ala., and has appealed his conviction. In that case, federal authorities identified some of the victims depicted in the photos. A restitution hearing has been set for early next month.

Though Talley has cooperated with investigators, he declined to testify Wednesday and stared quietly at the floor for much of the hearing. According to military officials, Talley joined the Army in January 2002 and has been stationed at Fort Benning since September. Public records show he lived in Minnesota and Washington before moving to Columbus.

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