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BCSO gets #036;74K in child porn case

The U.S. Attorney's office was in Greenville on Monday, and while here awarded more than $74,000 to the Butler County Sheriff's Office for their role in a recent child pornography case.

Charles R. Niven and John M. Cloud, representing the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama brought the check, which they presented to Sheriff Diane Harris.

"This is one more instance in Butler County where we have seized assets for crimes committed in our county," said Harris. "The law provides that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law-once that suspect is proven guilty, we initiate the necessary paperwork to seize the assets involved in the crime.

"The law also provides that these assets can be liquidated at auction, and the net proceeds, after satisfying any debts attached to the assets, can be used to further the battle against crime," she said.

"I am pleased to present to you this U.S. Treasury check in the amount of $74,475.46, which represents your department's equitable share of the net proceeds of the forfeiture in the civil forfeiture complaint filed against Robert C. Heartsill Jr., following his conviction for the federal criminal offenses involving the production of child pornography," Cloud, law enforcement coordinator for the Middle District.

The Heartsill farm, seized during proceedings, was sold at auction on Mar. 15, 2001 for $165,000, and the sale closed on Apr. 2.

"The net proceeds after all mortgages, closing costs and expenses was $106,393.52," said Niven. This check (along with a $10,000 for the District Attorney's Office) represent the equitable shares to local agencies which were vital to the investigation and prosecution."

Agencies involved in this case were the Butler County Sheriff's Office, District Attorney's Office for the 2nd Judicial Circuit, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Marshall's Service for the Middle District of Alabama.

"This money will be used to purchase desperately needed equipment that budget constraints have prevented me from acquiring for the department," Harris said.

She said the funding has strict stipulations as to accountability for its use.

"Just like any other grant from the federal government, this money has to be accounted for down to the penny," Harris said.

Harris was very appreciative for the assistance her agency received with the case.

"I would like to give credit to the FBI, and the U.S. Marshall's Service for their technical expertise in investigating the computer equipment used by Heartsill," she said. "And it must be mentioned, that if not for the victim involved coming forward, this case would not have been brought to light, much less, prosecuted.

"My special thanks go to the victims of this criminal and their families for getting involved-I sincerely hope and pray that they are able to continue the healing process, in the aftermath of such terrible events in their lives," Harris said.

Harris also wanted to commend the Crime Victims Services Office attached to the DAs Office, and now the Child Advocacy Center.

"These two public assets, for the most part, go unrecognized, but they are instrumental in cases such as this, and they should be commended.

"On behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice, I want to commend your department for its efforts which led to the seizures in this case," said Niven. "Your continuing cooperation with this office and (also) the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the war against crime in our community is important and greatly appreciated by your federal law enforcement colleagues."