Clovis News

Feds indict Clovis man on child porn charges

Authorities searched Chester Garber's home more than three years ago as part of a child pornography investigation.

Charges never were filed and, as time dragged on, Garber, his wife and sister-in-law filed a federal lawsuit over the investigation.

Now, Garber has been indicted by a federal grand jury on child pornography charges.

"Chester Garber is a good man," said his attorney, Roger Nuttall. "He's a hell of a smart lawyer. I'm just unhappy to see that he has to look at this indictment."

Garber's legal predicament has been bouncing around the area's courts -- both federal and superior -- for years. But his current situation is unclear.

He has been indicted, but hasn't been arrested. Lauren Horwood, spokeswoman for Benjamin Wagner, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, said she couldn't comment until Garber was arrested.

The case dates to 2006, when Garber -- who court papers say has a photography business and who has been ineligible to practice law since 1980 -- gave a worker at the HomeTown Buffet on Shaw Avenue in Clovis a birthday present that included four DVDs.

The girl took the DVDs home and found images such as nature pictures, but also several shots of girls allegedly younger than 18 in provocative poses and "in varying stages of dress or undress," according to court documents.

Abby Spencer, a member of the Clovis Police Department who is named in the lawsuit, said in an affidavit supporting a search of Garber's home that the images included "little girls that are obviously under the age of 18" and others that "are possibly child erotica."

The search of Garber's home came in February 2007, but no arrest was made. Soon, both sides were fighting in court.

Initially, the battle played out in Fresno County Superior Court, where both filed legal motions.

In October 2007, Judge Rosendo Peña denied a motion to return Garber's property and to throw out any evidence seized during the search of the home on the 8000 block of North Colfax Avenue. Nuttall argued the affidavit supporting the search warrant was flawed.

Garber, his wife -- Dr. Emilia Ting -- and her sister, Betty Ting, then filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Fresno, alleging civil rights violations for searching the house without probable cause and for unlawfully seizing medical records that contain private patient information, in violation of state and federal laws. That lawsuit is still active.

The indictment contains no details of Garber's alleged crimes. The counts against him are receipt or distribution of child pornography and possession of child pornography.

It also includes a forfeiture count that says if Garber is convicted on any of the charges, any property used in the crimes would be seized by the government.

Asked about possible retaliation against Garber for filing a lawsuit, Nuttall replied that "I don't want to say that because that attributes really bad motives to people."

Nuttall added: "I know [Garber's] taken thousands of pictures. I'm surprised anything he's taken as a photographer would be anything other than artistic and professional.

"I'm anxious to see where they feel he's run afoul of the law."

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