Federal officials will prosecute a recently retired Long Beach police officer accused of sharing images of children being sexually abused, essentially taking over the case from state prosecutors who’d already filed charges, authorities announced today.
Anthony Brown, 57, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to three counts of distribution of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a news release today.
A federal grand jury indicted Brown on the charges earlier this month, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office dismissed similar charges it was pressing, “in light of the federal case,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Brown, who worked at the Long Beach Police Department for 27 years, is accused of using the social media site MeWe to share pictures and videos of children being sexually abused. Detectives estimated some of the victims were as young as 7, according to court documents reviewed by the Long Beach Post.
Police say the case against Brown started with a tip in May 2020 from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, a nationwide nonprofit that frequently alerts law enforcement to cases of minors being abused.
Before realizing Brown was a police officer, the detective on the case called Brown and told him his name and phone number had been connected to a MeWe account that was sharing the images of sexual abuse, according to a search warrant the detective later authored.
When police later searched Brown’s phone, they found no data on it prior to the day the detective called him, the search warrant shows—an indication, police said, that the phone may have been wiped clean.
Brown remained on the police force for months after that until his arrest on Feb. 10. The department suspended him without pay the same day, and he retired with his $93,600 annual pension the next month.
After questions from the Post about why Brown remained on the force while he was under investigation, LBPD Chief Robert Luna ordered a review of how the case was handled, saying he was “very concerned” about the timeframes in it.
It’s not clear if that review has reached any conclusion yet.
If Brown is convicted on all the federal charges, he faces between 5 and 80 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors asked that Brown be detained until trial because of a “serious risk” he’ll flee, but he remains free on bond, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
His trial is tentatively set for November.
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