Lebanon Man, 18, Pleads Not Guilty to 22 Counts of Child Pornography

By Rob Wolfe

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 01-03-2018 12:16 AM

North Haverhill — An 18-year-old Lebanon man whose November arrest was video recorded by a concerned patron at the Kilton Public Library pleaded not guilty to felony child pornography charges on Tuesday.

In an affidavit, Lebanon police said they were investigating a tip from Microsoft via its subsidiary Skype, an internet-based communications service, when they confronted Jacob Seace at the library.

The investigation found that Seace exchanged sexually charged images with a 15-year-old girl, police allege. He was eventually found to have stored numerous images and videos of child pornography, some involving children as young as 7, on a cloud-based internet account, authorities said in the affidavit.

Police say Seace distributed an image of child sexual abuse using Skype, which tracks known child pornography files and alerts authorities when they surface.

Seace appeared in Grafton Superior Court with an attorney on Tuesday to enter a not-guilty plea to 22 counts of possessing child pornography, as well as one count of distributing it. All are Class A felonies, which can carry penalties of between 7½ and 15 years in prison, according to Lebanon Chief Richard Mello.

Witnesses questioned whether police used excessive force when they arrested Seace in November.

At the time, he was charged with attempting to flee with his cellphone, which had been identified as evidence. He also was charged with resisting arrest and obstruction, both misdemeanors that will be resolved in a separate court case.

Police said in their affidavit that they went to the Kilton Library on Nov. 7 after trying to find and interview Seace at home.

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Seace voluntarily spoke with police, the affidavit says, adding that he “told the officers that he had been through counseling because of his previous actions of sending and receiving nude images and denied consent to search his phone.”

“That’s when he tried to flee with his phone, which the detectives believed to contain evidence,” Mello said in an interview on Tuesday.

After the November arrest, investigators obtained search warrants for Seace’s phone and cloud-based account, where they allegedly found child pornography. Police arrested and charged Seace a second time on Dec. 29.

Later on Tuesday, the prosecutor and defense attorney emphasized that Seace had no prior criminal record as they discussed bail options. Judge Lawrence MacLeod assigned a $5,000 cash bail with limitations on Seace’s internet access and ability to travel, among other conditions.

Although a police news release distributed on Tuesday says Seace accessed child pornography on a computer at the library, the affidavit does not specify which device he used, and it remains unclear whether or not he used a library-owned computer. Mello said he was unsure, but Sean Fleming, director of the Lebanon public library system, said it was unlikely because very few of Kilton’s devices can run Skype.

Fleming, who in November described the arrest as “disturbing” for staff and patrons, added on Tuesday that he generally preferred that police interviews take place outside the library.

But he also noted that officers’ actions can depend on complex and changing circumstances.

“They did what they thought they should be doing,” Fleming said of the investigators who carried out Seace’s Kilton arrest. “Would I rather it have happened elsewhere? Sure. But if they made a judgment that if they tried to take him out of the library he would bolt and get away? Sure.”

Fleming said the allegations against Seace touched on an ongoing debate in the library community about the degree to which librarians should intervene when patrons are viewing pornography.

Setting aside child pornography, which is illegal, some library systems don’t block internet access to pornography or prohibit it at all, Fleming said.

But if someone is watching pornography in a Lebanon library, he said, “then we ask them to stop, and if they don’t stop, then they’re asked to leave.”

After police filed charges against Seace, library officials issued him a letter of trespass, which means he is prohibited from entering the premises.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.