Judge rules on bail for accused child porn distributor
A Kennewick businessman arrested on child pornography allegations had about 75 years worth of viewing material, according to preliminary estimates outlined by a prosecutor Friday.
Daniel J. Bunch, 39, was arrested earlier this month, and investigators say he was the No. 2 distributor of child pornography on a particular computer network in Eastern Washington, said Benton County Deputy Prosecutor Laurel Holland.
One image was downloaded as early as 2014, said Holland, which shows prolonged activity by Bunch in distributing a mass quantity.
Those findings from the still-early days of the forensic analysis prove why he is a danger to the community and should remain locked up on $200,000 bail, she argued.
Bunch was back in court Friday afternoon on a defense request to lower his bail to at least $100,000.
‘Mountainous amount of content’
Attorney Norma Rodriguez said she didn’t want to minimize the type of charges her client is facing or the “mountainous amount of content” prosecutors say they have in evidence.
She described it as “disturbing.”
Yet Bunch, if released from the Benton County jail, won’t be going anywhere, said Rodriguez.
He was born and raised in the Tri-Cities and all of his ties are in this community.
He worked for the family business, Bunch Finnigan Appliances, for at least 23 years and is listed in state records as a co-owner. But he won’t be returning to the downtown Kennewick store, or even his family home with his wife and daughter, if he posts bail.
Bunch’s parents have agreed to be responsible for their son, who would have to wear a GPS ankle bracelet, stay off the internet and stay away from all children, said Rodriguez. He also would get an evaluation and start sex offender treatment right away, she said.
“As far as we’re concerned, basically he’s going to be jailed at home,” the lawyer said. “In speaking to his father, the plans are to keep (his son) at home and not allow him to go anywhere.”
Store network masked his identity
Bunch has pleaded innocent in Benton County Superior Court to three counts of first-degree dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct and two counts of first-degree possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
Trial tentatively is scheduled for Sept. 9.
He has been in jail since his early morning arrest outside his home on July 11.
That immediately followed a search of Bunch Finnigan Appliances on East Columbia Drive, where investigators allegedly found a hidden laptop connected to two hard drives in Daniel Bunch’s work area.
Prosecutors say Bunch used the store’s computer network for his criminal activity because it masked his identity while allowing him to remotely access the significant stash of child porn.
Bunch admitted being able to access three computers at the store while at home, and said he was the only person with that capability, court documents said.
But he denied being on the system as detectives were searching the business, even though a large monitor in the office showed someone viewing Bunch’s personal Facebook page, documents said.
A repository for predators to access
Bunch allegedly provided a repository for predators to view and download images and videos of child pornography through file-sharing software programs.
Holland said in court Friday that a large number of the depictions show children who appear to be age 12 and under.
There are several hundred depictions of toddlers with bondage while being forcibly raped, and “several thousand images of toddlers engaged in sex acts with adults and/or other children,” she said.
Detectives reviewing all of the evidence have about 128,000 images that aren’t yet categorized, which means they need to go through each one to determine if it is illegal porn by featuring a minor or if it may have been produced by Bunch.
Investigators have not found any evidence yet to show Bunch was a participant in the sexual abuse of kids or that he produced any of the videos in his alleged collection
Faces 10 years in prison
If convicted of the five felonies, he is facing 10 years in prison.
Judge Bruce Spanner denied the bail reduction request, saying he considers Bunch a flight risk because of that potential sentence and is concerned about his level of sophistication.
“While I appreciate your point that there is no indication that he’s acted out on his apparent attraction to prepubescent children, this kind of activity, these images of children engaged in sexual activity, is devastating for the kids,” he said. “It’s a life sentence of poor self esteem, difficulty with relationships, poor self image, unhealthy perceptions of men, and it undermines their own personal belief in their significance.”
Spanner added that based on the distribution volume being alleged in Bunch’s case, “I think we could really compare him to a major drug dealer. Not the violence part, but at least the damage that’s done by those that consume the drugs of a major drug dealer.”