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City employee attends hearings on child porn charge

Roads

Editor’s note: This story contains information that may be triggering to survivors of sexual violence.

DES MOINES — Marshalltown Public Works employee Jeff Roads appeared in a federal court hearing Monday afternoon on a transportation of child pornography charge.

Roads, 45, was arrested and charged last week. The combined preliminary and detention hearing was overseen by Chief Magistrate Judge Hellen C. Adams. She did not immediately rule on whether Roads would be jailed until his next court appearance or if he would remain at home with his parents in Marshall County for the time being.

Allegations

During the hearing, Assistant United States Attorney Ryan Leemkuil called FBI Special Agent Chris Thomas as a witness. Thomas listed several alleged offenses committed by Roads.

– Thomas said the case got started when a minor in Oklahoma accused Roads of molestation and showing them a sexually explicit video. Thomas said the incident was alleged to have happened when the minor was in Iowa. He said the minor’s mother contacted Roads’ wife about the incident.

– Thomas said he obtained a federal search warrant and several electronic devices were confiscated from Roads, including his iPhone. Thomas said the iPhone was named “Jeff’s Work Phone” and had an Apple ID account linked with Roads.

– As he inspected Roads’ phone, Thomas said he found a Kik social media messaging app, as well as about 198,000 image files. He said he has so far gone through about 100 of the files which he determined to contain child pornography.

– On the Kik app, Thomas said he found an account that he said Roads controlled. The account, was presented as belonging to a 16-year-old female from Iowa. Thomas shared a sample of text from a chat conversation between the account and an account controlled by a person identifying as a 38-year-old male.

– The online chat allegedly took place Oct. 19 to Oct. 20, 2018. The conversation presented as evidence by Thomas included sexually explicit photos of minor girls performing sexual acts or posed in sexually suggestive ways. It also included photos of adults performing sexual acts on minor girls and written descriptions of child rape. Some of the children in the images were estimated to be as young as 2 or 3 years old up to young teenagers.

– Thomas said he has only had time to sort through a small number of all the files on Roads’ iPhone and was “not even close” to finishing looking at all the data on the device and other devices seized in the federal warrant.

Meanwhile, Roads’ defense attorney Jennifer Frese questioned Thomas about whether anyone else could have had access to Roads’ phone. Thomas said he had not interviewed Roads’ fellow employees or family about if they had used the iPhone.

He said he believed the Kik account listed as Lily G. to have been run by Roads, however.

Discussion on mental health, whether Roads should be detained

Another major topic of conversation Monday was Roads’ mental health state. Frese said Roads was in definite need of a mental health evaluation.

“Whether or not is was an issue before, it is an issue now,” she said of Roads’ mental health state.

Leemkuil said information provided by law enforcement suggested that Roads could be suicidal. Combined with the serious nature of the crimes outlined at the hearing that Roads allegedly committed, Leemkuil said Roads should remain in detention until his next court appearance.

He said a transportation of child pornography conviction carries a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence.

“The government is requesting that he (Roads) be detained pending trial,” Leemkuil said.

Frese cited Roads’ strong connection to his community and his lack of a prior criminal record as reasons he should be allowed to remain living with his parents in Marshall County. She said she does not think he will try to escape the area.

Frese said Roads has been living with family per an Iowa Department of Human Services safety plan since December 2018 and neither he nor his family have had complaints or violated the arrangement.

She described Roads as a “typical blue-collar, hardworking guy.” She also pointed to the strong support from extended family members who made the trip to Des Moines in support of Roads at Monday’s hearing.

Prior to the hearing’s start, Roads turned around to look at the gathered family members and say “I love you.”

Adams said she would make her decision on Roads’ detainment either Monday evening or Tuesday morning.

At 6:45 p.m. Monday, her ruling was unknown.

Employment status

Roads’ role with the city has been as street superintendent.

“Right now, there really is not a lot that we know,” said City Administrator Jessica Kinser. “As of today (Monday), he (Roads) is still a city employee, and that will be something that we’ll be looking into here as we start to learn more.”

She said city officials are consulting their legal team about next steps regarding Roads.

“The thing that I think everybody tries to keep in mind is an arrest and being charged is not a conviction,” Kinser said.

She said the city officials had been aware of Roads’ arrest but until Monday were not aware of what he had been arrested for.

See the original story here. The Times-Republican will continue reporting as information becomes available.

Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com