Wednesday, September 21, 2005

TOP STORY >> Fireman is fired over child porn

Leader staff writer

Lt. Michael Spaller, a 13-year member of the Cabot Fire Depart-ment, was fired by Cabot Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh early Tuesday following Spaller’s Sept. 14 arrest on a charge of distributing, possessing or viewing material de-picting sexually ex-plicit conduct in-volving a child.
“The city has several policies in place regarding pornography in the workplace whether it is on a computer or not,” Stumbaugh said.

According to a Cabot arrest report, Spaller was arrested after child pornography was found in his locker at Central Fire Station. Lockers at the fire department are city property, Stumbaugh said.
“The letter of termination outlined the several rules and regulations he violated,” the mayor said.
When asked if Spaller would have been terminated if the pornographic images had been of adults instead of minors, Stumbaugh said he couldn’t answer because, “It didn’t happen that way.”

Lonoke County Prosecuting Attorney Lona McCastlain filed the charge on Tuesday. The charge carries a sentence of five to 10 years in prison. McCastlain added Spaller had no criminal history.

“I don’t have much to say about it except that I’ve hired a lawyer, and this will all play out in court that I’m not guilty,” Spaller said when contacted by The Leader on Tuesday. Spaller’s attorney, Paul Schmidt of Cabot, declined to comment. According to the arrest re-port, Lt. James Barron of the Cabot Fire Department “inadvertently came across several images depicting children performing sexual acts” in February. The images were in Spaller’s locker, the report says. Barron again saw the images in Spaller’s locker “around the end of May or early June.”

The report says Barron reported the incident to Cabot Fire Chief Phil Robinson sometime during the first week of September.

Robinson in turn contacted Cabot Police Chief Jackie Davis and Sgt. Scott Steely of the Cabot Police Department, who spoke with Barron about the incident Sept. 5, according to the report. The report goes on to say that Steely and Detective John Dodd went to the fire station the following day, when Robinson found the images in Spaller’s locker. The officers reviewed the images, which are now sealed as evidence in the case.
“As part of my rebuilding, I elected to do locker inspections,” said Robinson, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, who has been the fire chief for just over a month. “It (the images) is not something we want to think about all the time.

“I think we have good morale in the fire department,” the chief said.
Other than the images, several adult videotapes, 8mm tapes and a video camera were also found in Spaller’s locker, according to the report, and the tapes were reviewed with Spaller’s consent.
Sgt. Dewayne Roper, spokes-man for the Cabot Police Depart-ment, confirmed the adult movies were “store bought,” not private home movies.

According to the report, Spaller told detectives at the Cabot Police Department’s Criminal Investiga-tion Division that he viewed and printed the images on a fire department computer for two reasons: his own curiosity and to “report to the chief.” Spaller never reported the items to the chief, the report said.
Spaller was placed on administrative leave last week pending an internal investigation by Stum-baugh.
Spaller is scheduled to appear in Lonoke County Circuit Court Oct. 31.