Advocates concerned about porn links on North Las Vegas mayor’s iPad

A child advocacy group on Friday said North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee’s statements to police regarding suspected child pornography on his iPad leave the public with disturbing questions.

Denise Tanata Ashby, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Alliance, called it a “huge red flag” that Lee told police pornography on his iPad came from an email, yet a detective was unable to find the email in question.

More troubling, she said, is that the police report says the detective found links to three different porn websites in Lee’s browser history, including one that might have included child pornography, which appears to contradict Lee’s story about unwanted images arriving via email.

“I can’t see why the information would be sitting in the browser history,” Ashby said.

North Las Vegas police got the case after the mayor asked for help removing what he considered child pornography from his personal iPad. A detective investigated, but didn’t check any of the mayor’s other electronic devices or press Lee on why his story didn’t match the evidence, a police report filed last year shows.

“I did locate several possible photos that could be considered child pornography, but since they were in a different country, I could not verify the age of the people pictured,” the detective said.

But instead of pursuing the issue, the detective took the iPad to an Apple Store to have it wiped and closed the case.

Lee said late Thursday that he was a victim, and turned his iPad over to police to stop a bad guy who was sending him emails containing child pornography.

How the iPad came to the attention of police is in dispute. Lee said he had his assistant call the police; the detective’s report says the mayor approached an officer at City Hall to ask for help.

The mayor also said he doesn’t know why the detective couldn’t find the email he identified as the conduit for the pornography, or why porn sites were in his browser history. He said he doesn’t look at pornography.

The news that police investigated Lee’s iPad for suspected child pornography left both his political allies and enemies with questions.

North Las Vegas Mayor Pro Tem Anita Wood said she was stunned, shocked and trying to figure out what’s going on.

“I’m going to start asking questions, absolutely,” Wood said. “Without talking to the mayor, without hearing his side, without seeing the police report I’m not in the position to make any assessments yet.”

Laura Martin, a spokeswoman for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said she doesn’t want to see the issue swept under the rug, remarking that it was a rough week for North Las Vegas.

On Sunday the Review-Journal reported that two longtime employees had filed ethics complaints against Lee, charging him with abusing the power of his office and rampant intimidation of city staff.

Thursday the newspaper reported that city workers were concerned about an email sent to all employees in regard to a proposal to drop attributes such as “integrity” from the city’s seven-word list of core values. The proposal is set to go to the City Council in June.

Martin said a common thread linking the employee complaints, concern over core values and the mayor’s iPad issue is excuses from city leaders that don’t make sense.

“Other stories have been like ‘oh stupid politics,’ but this the pornography stuff — it’s scary. It goes beyond adults just being political animals. It goes into something just really creepy,” Martin said. “I think this is something really serious. People are shocked.”

Annette Magnus, executive director of Battle Born Progress, called the iPad issue disturbing, in part because the explanations don’t add up, leading to confusion and concern for the safety of children.

“It’s just bad there is no other way of putting it,” Magnus said.

Police Chief Joseph Chronister, who retired Thursday, said he had every confidence in his detective and believes the detective would have dug deeper if he felt the need, but he said in hindsight he wishes he’d pushed for his department to do more and to have sought help from an outside agency.

Asked if the mayor was treated as anyone else would be, the chief said the short answer was no, his position and power played a role. Why the department didn’t do more to hunt for the email the mayor claimed sent child porn is a good question, he said, adding that pushing for a more in-depth investigation was his responsibility.

Chronister said taking the iPad to the Apple Store to wipe it wasn’t unusal, as his officers strive to go above and beyond.

“I think they probably should have done more. I think they were restrained in their position,” said Denise Tanata Ashby, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Alliance. “I think there’s a lot of facts missing from this case.”

She said she thought the police department should have immediately handed the case to an outside agency in light of the discrepancies in Lee’s account and the evidence found. If another agency could have found the email it could clear up the confusion, she said.

Former North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck said she was sad for her city, in general.

“If he was involved in child pornography, that’s evil and he needs to be in jail and I hope someone will investigate that,” said Buck, who lost the election to Lee in 2013.

Buck said her comments might sound like sour grapes, but that’s not the case.

“I’m still a resident here. My family still lives here and we’re concerned about what’s going on,” Buck said.

Lee is known for being very involved with The Boy Scouts of America, though it’s unclear what his role is with the organization, which said it could only confirm Lee is a registered member.

Shane Calendine, CEO of the Las Vegas Area Council of Boy Scouts of America, gave this statement:

“The Boy Scouts of America takes these matters very seriously and youth protection is a constant focus for us. As this matter is unrelated to Scouting, please contact the local authorities for additional information.”

Calendine added that since local authorities found no basis for further investigation his organization would not take any action.

The Clark County District Attorney’s Office and the Las Vegas Division of the FBI declined comment.

Contact Bethany Barnes at bbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Find her on Twitter: @betsbarnes.

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