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Spokane

Firefighter accused of buying child porn

Thu., Jan. 31, 2008

A Spokane firefighter accused of downloading and possessing child pornography claimed Wednesday someone fraudulently used his credit card to commit the crimes that resulted in him spending the night in jail.

Lt. Todd Chism, 41, was released Wednesday after making an appearance in Spokane County District Court, where Judge Sara B. Derr determined the probable cause to hold him was “too slim.”

Chism, an emergency medical technician, was arrested Tuesday night by Washington State Patrol’s Missing and Exploited Children’s task force, which has been investigating him since June.

Investigators seized computers at his home in Nine Mile Falls and Spokane Fire Station No. 16 on North Assembly Street near Joe Albi Stadium. They also seized anything else with multimedia capabilities, said Sgt. John Sager, a task force commander.

“We are going to look into their claim of fraud,” said Sager. “This is an ongoing investigation. This case is not done, not even close. We have a lot of forensic research to do.”

The prosecutor’s office decided not to file charges against Chism, Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Fitzgerald said.

“Anytime you are involved with cases where there’s computer evidence, which may be the container of the evidence if you will, it takes time to investigate,” Fitzgerald said. “We are not in a position to file a charge because we need more information.”

Chism’s attorney, Carl Oreskovich, called WSP’s arrest surprising and sloppy, adding the only basis the agency had for the arrest was a credit card number.

Sager says there’s more evidence that hasn’t been announced.

WSP began its investigation last summer after receiving a tip from Yahoo.com about child pornography downloaded to an account that had been established using Chism’s Bank of America credit card number and home address, according to the State Patrol, and the same account was used to purchase the illegal pornography.

But the account was in the name of Mr. Nicole Chism with a fake birth date, Oreskovich said. Nicole Chism is the firefighter’s wife. And the Chisms had reported fraud on that particular credit card account three previous times, he said.

The bank twice has issued new cards to the couple, Oreskovich said, adding that the Chisms don’t have a Yahoo account.

During the court appearance Wednesday, Chism told the judge the charges were “egregious.”

Chism has been a Spokane Fire Department employee for nearly 20 years. He also is a Realtor.

He was placed on paid administrative leave pending the state’s investigation. His annual salary is $82,817, said Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer. Chism will remain on leave pending the criminal investigation. An internal administrative review will start once that is completed.

Derr said her decision to release Chism on his own recognizance will not affect the state’s case.


 
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