Bellingham man had 5,000 child porn images on computer, charges say

The Kansas City Star

A Bellingham man has been charged with keeping thousands of images of child pornography on his computer.

Federal agents were investigating files shared over the peer-to-peer network eMule in February 2016, when they found a user, “Jim,” shared images of a sex act between children under the age of 12. Agents traced the IP address to the apartment of James Leonard Cunningham, 75.

A few months later, in May, law enforcement carried out a search warrant at the unit in the 4900 block of South Samish Way. Cunningham waived his rights and admitted to having child porn, according to charges filed this week in Whatcom County Superior Court.

A quick search of his computer revealed he had installed the program eMule, while “numerous” files with vulgar names – describing sex acts with children under the age of 8 – were found in the computer’s recycling bin, according to the charges.

Later, forensic reviews of his hard drives turned up 5,018 explicit images of what appeared to be minors. Over 3,800 of those images showed child victims who had been identified by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Another 160 explicit videos “clearly” showed minors, according to the charging papers, while about a fifth of those videos showed known victims of child sex abuse.

Federal attorneys declined to pursue the case, instead passing it to local law enforcement, according to the Whatcom County Prosecutor’s Office. Cunningham faces two felony counts: first-degree viewing of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct, and first-degree possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Cunningham spent less than an hour in jail last week before he was released on a promise to show up for his next court date. A Superior Court commissioner found probable cause for the charges Wednesday. Cunningham remains out of jail. He has not been arraigned, and he has not entered a plea.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb