Federal officials arrested a Lynden man Friday on two counts of producing and distributing pornographic photos online, according to a complaint filed in U.S District Court in Seattle.
Jamie Bartels is accused of photographing two young girls, estimated to be 5 to 6 years old, at a motel in Bremerton earlier this year and sharing the images on Rabbit, an online portal that lets users share content while simultaneously video chatting with others.
The investigation arose from a tip submitted by Rabbit to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, indicating that a user named “Lovr E” had violated its terms of service by uploading several images of suspected child pornography to its website on Nov. 26-27.
Rabbit also provided several pages of sexually explicit chats from “Lovr1” regarding that user’s sexual attraction to young girls. In addition, Lovr1 also recounts taking a girl to a hotel over a weekend and then sharing the sexually explicit photos flagged by Rabbit.
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In early December, Comcast responded to a summons and tracked the Rabbit user’s IP address to a Lynden home where Bartels lived. That gave federal officials sufficient information for a search warrant of the home, where Bartels was questioned.
According to court documents:
After Bartels initially denied he knew anything about child pornography or Rabbit, federal agents questioned other witnesses in the home, during which time Bartels drank four 12-ounce beers “in quick succession,” according to court documents. The other witnesses identified the two girls in the photos.
Bartels later admitted he took the photos with his cellphone while staying at a hotel in Bremerton with the two girls, their mother and another witness from the Lynden home. He said he took about five photos of one of the girls without her knowledge or the knowledge of anyone else in the room, and had captured webcam video of the same girl in her underwear on at least one other occasion while he was chatting with someone online. He told agents those were the only two times he ever attempted to capture a pornographic photo or video of the girl.
Bartels also told agents he was the Rabbit user cited in the sexually explicit chats.
Federal agents said they found the images reported to Rabbit on Bartel’s laptop computer, which was seized during the search.
Bartels later explained to them that he had been molested by his mother as a young child, though he never sought counseling or other help for that abuse. He admitted to looking at child pornography a couple of times a month, saying it was “like a drug” and he could not stop viewing it. He said he had a couple of hundred images and videos of child pornography.
After his arrest, Bartels told an agent “he was glad he was caught because it felt like a big weight had been lifted.”
A detention hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Seattle.