Trial scheduled for accused molester, pornographer

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An April trial date has been scheduled for a New Boston, Texas, man accused of sharing photos he snapped of himself molesting a 2-year-old relative.

Joseph Clinton Leatherman Jr., 29, appeared with Dallas lawyer Gary Unell for a pretrial hearing Wednesday before 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart in Bowie County. Leatherman previously entered pleas of not guilty to charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child and possession of child pornography.

Lockhart asked Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp if the state intends to present both cases to the jury in April or if she plans to try Leatherman on each count separately. Crisp said she believes both cases could be decided by a single jury as the evidence relevant to both charges is intertwined. Unell agreed.

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“I have no problem trying them together,” Unell said. “I agree that the evidence is coming in regardless.”

Crisp said she expects the defense to file a motion to suppress some “novel evidence” the state intends to present at trial to prove that Leatherman is the man depicted in sexual abuse photos. At an earlier court hearing, Crisp said that the high resolution of the photos taken with a cell phone camera has enabled the state to match Leatherman’s fingerprint to those of the man abusing the child in a photograph.

While a photo of a fingerprint rather than an actual print has never been admitted as evidence in the state of Texas, the technique has been used to successfully prosecute a man in Florida in a child pornography case. Crisp asked Lockhart to schedule a hearing at least a week in advance of the trial date. Lockhart scheduled the case for a pretrial hearing April 4 and said he could schedule additional hearings if issue needing the court’s attention arise.

Leatherman is currently in custody. If convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child, he faces 25 to 99 years or life in prison. Possession of child pornography is punishable by two to 10 years.

Leatherman allegedly emailed five sexually graphic photos of himself with the child via AOL. AOL notified the Dallas Police Department about the offensive images after flagging the images Aug. 9, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The images allegedly were sent by infantryman903@aol and were linked by investigators to Leatherman’s email account. They reportedly depict a man wearing unique camouflage underwear and the young girl in a sexual pose. The underwear, Leatherman’s body and hands, and an unusual birthmark on the child’s body were allegedly used to identify both suspect and victim.

Investigators allegedly found the distinctive underwear during a search of Leatherman’s home Aug. 11. A relative of Leatherman’s and the girl’s allegedly identified the child in the photos as well as Leatherman.

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