This offender lives in Ferguson township, where I grew up. Purportedly it was one of the most disgusting cases of child pornography that Detective Josh Martin had witnessed in his career. He was tipped off, by one way or another, and entered the residence of a mathematics PhD child pornography suspect without a legal search warrant.
Pursuant to procedure, he had called the Centre County District Attorney’s office and entered into a “quid pro quo agreement.” In layman’s terms that means “something for something” in latin. As in, the DA office didn’t bother to instruct the detective to get a search warrant signed by a judge. But former DA Parks Miller instructed Josh Martin to offer the suspect a deal: We’ll own you charge you with one count, as long as you turn over your hard drive…. That’s quid pro quo. You do this and we will give you that.
The detective, in his full blown career in Centre County, sure as hell has seen enough cases of pedophelia and child pornography. They are plentiful here. Statististically Central Pennsylvania has some of the highest rates.
It was a mathematics professor in the middle class Penn State Suburb of Ferguson Township. But quid pro quo is not a decision made by law enforcement, it’s a determination of an prosecutor. It’s sort of a round about way to search a hard drive a pedophile without a legal search warrant, and in return you promise “oh we will only charge you with one count.”
So Detective Josh Martin, on the instruction from Stacy Parks Miller, picked up the hard drive, and got the suspect to cooperate in an investigation. The agreement was: “You tell us everything and give us all your electronic devices and we’ll only hit you with one charge.”
Later Law Enforcement would go on to discover, inside Adam Zydney’s hard drive, one of the most extensive and disturbing collection of child pornography that any of them had ever witnessed in their careers. And this is nothing to be taken lightly, bear in mind this is Sandusky territory, where the average collection of child pornography and the common pedophile hardly raise an eyebrow. Our law enforcement has seen it all before.
But Zydney’s porn collection of pedopheliac images was utterly disgusting, it was appalling, even to seasoned law enforcement who had dealt with people like Sandusky, or Christopher Lee.
Detective Martin had called his “boss”, who had instructed he make this quid pro quo agreement, which included:
The affidavit of probable cause filed by Martin said Zydney cooperated with the investigation, including providing police the encryption passcodes for his computer and the passcodes for the file encryption on the pornographic images and videos.
Detective Martin made a quid pro quo agreement with Zydney to file a single charge against Zydney if he fully confessed and explained the circumstances to police, according to a pre-trial motion filed by Lisko on March 2, 2016.
It was only after the hard drive was analyzed and Zydney cooperated with an interrogation, that the District Attorney’s office realized what an impulsive and utterly morally erroneous mistake they had engaged in. As in: “Whoopsies, this is the most disgusting and extensive collection of child pornography ever seen in history of Centre County, and we accidentally struck a deal that we would give him one charge if he cooperated.”
By this time all the detectives in law enforcement were aware. I can’t imagine how sick Josh Martin must have felt, or how pissed off he must have been. I imagine he questions authority now, I imagine he second guesses every “quid pro quo” or quick fix, or deal making that comes down the chain before he can actually view the evidence.
It was the biggest “Oops” of his career, and given the atrocities seen in the images of those children, he has to take a step back and remember it was not his Oops. He followed procedure. He called the District Attorney, or emailed (hopefully), and she made a legal decision, which he in turn as an officer of the law implemented. None of it was Josh Martin’s fault, Josh Martin went up his chain of command (likely in contradiction to his better instincts as a cop.)
Disaster was to follow:
A State College man had 836 felony counts of possessing child pornography dismissed Thursday because of misconduct by former District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller.
“The current DA’s office has no choice,” said Roy Lisko, defense attorney for Adam Zydney.
“I am in an impossible position here,” deputy District Attorney Sean McGraw said. “We have evidence of a very serious crime. That evidence, in my estimation as an experienced litigator, would be more than adequate. That evidence has been suppressed because of misconduct by a prior district attorney.”
Essentially, due to the quid pro quo “deal”, law enforcement had their hands tied. The word of law enforcement, is that they had seen child pornography collections hidden on hard drives, but nothing to the extent and absolute moral vulgarity of this. It was an unprecedentedly disgusting and extensive amount of video and images. Case precedent in Centre County had people being sentenced for far longer time, for far less of such disgusting content:
Ferguson Township detective Joshua Martin testified there were 19 videos depicting children engaged in sexual acts with adults, 63 videos with nude or partially nude children in provocative sexual poses, 175 images of children engaged in sexual contact with adults or other children and 579 images of children with exposed genitalia posed in sexually provocative positions on Zydney’s computer.
In the middle of all this, it was election season, and Parks Miller was suing the county. She had her other problems, for one the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board was breathing down her neck. For another, there were cases being overturned on appeal in superior court due to prosecutorial misconduct. For another, her text messaging, catfishing and other scandals had been exposed.
At last she found the time to sit down and look at the evidence in the Zydney case, and she came to the same conclusion Martin had tried to warn her might happen. It was horrific, the evidence was stomach churning and sickening. It was a giant “Oops.”
The images and videos were sent to the District Attorney’s office on Sept. 29, 2015. Martin was advised to file additional charges on Oct. 15, 2017, based on a more extensive review of the images by the district attorney’s office.
This wan’t Detective Martin’s first go around and the problem with being a Detective is that you also sign off on the charges, and you are required to testify on the investigation you conducted. I can’t imagine what must have been going through Martin’s head signing off on those added charges when he knew a quid pro quo agreement had been in place…. Maybe something like …. “I’m going to have to eventually testify to this horrific shit, and the public is going to think I had something to do with letting this guy off,” or maybe something like “We had a something for something agreement in place and now we are going back on our agreement so this will never fly with any judge, but technically if this is my boss…… Then here we go.”
Martin reluctantly filed additional charges at the direction of Parks Miller, according to McGraw.
“There was one count filed, and then I got a look at how extensive this pornography collection was and how shocking it was and we requested the officer to have the entire drive analyzed and the whole thing be charged appropriately,” Parks Miller said at Zydney’s preliminary hearing on Nov. 18, 2015. “It came to our office and we were like, ‘Oh no. This guy needs the appropriate set of charges like everybody gets.'”
“It came to our office and we were like, ‘Oh no.’ –Parks Miller
It was basically what could be likened to an immunity clause for witnesses reluctant to testify for fear of being charged with a crime. Parks Miller basically told the guy: “Hey dude, you tell us everything and give us all the passwords to your computer and we’ll only charge you with one thing.
It was election season, after all, and she was too busy campaigning and suing people to bother herself with getting a search warrant.
But the problem was that the quid pro quo, or something for something, is a legally binding contract. It’s just like if you give a witness immunity just to testify against another defendant, even if he might give some testimony to implicate himself. The right to the fifth amendment is put aside, so as long as you cooperate. Except Zydnsy didn’t have absolute immunity, he just got the promise of one charge.
I don’t know the process of how hard it is to get a search warrant in Centre County, but the cynical part of me finds it hard to believe Parks Miller could not have just have “texted” or “snapped chatted” one of these judges and got one. And I heard in the rumor mill, among some other cop friends, that Martin didn’t feel comfortable making the one charge deal in the first place.
Who knows what was going through Parks Miller’s head when she made that decision? Maybe the Zydney family were donors to her campaign? I have no clue. I am confident from what I hear Martin was deeply uncomfortable with the quid pro quo, and his law enforcement intution was right, because the whole thing backfired:
In his pre-trial motion, Lisko said, “In reliance of the detective’s offer, Zydney gave a comprehensive and candid statement to detective Martin that ultimately served to implicate Zydney in the alleged activity for which he is currently facing the instant criminal charges.”
McGraw shared a similar perspective with Lisko.
“Had detective Martin said to him, ‘Well, I may bring one count, but there is a possibility that more counts will be brought,’ there is a very good likelihood that Mr. Zydney would not have agreed to that information, nor would he have made incriminating statements,” McGraw said.
Insufficiency of the search warrant and a coerced confession were the reasons listed by Lisko in the pre-trial motion to suppress all statements and evidence illegally obtained by the Commonwealth.
Judge Kistler, then President Judge, agreed in May of 2016. He had to have seen the evidence and was likely disgusted by it too. He probably looked for any loop hole possible. But there are certain things, like Miranda rights and pre-trial agreements to testify, deals made that essentially can’t be backed out of. There are lots of wiggle rooms in the law, but search warrants, miranda rights and pre-charging agreements for testimony and cooperation do not fit those categories. It must have pained Kistler to make that ruling to, and I think it did, because he certainly sat on it for a while. Him and his law clerk were likely combing pa code and westlaw cases searching for a loophole, because the Zydney porn collection was filthy, degenerate, and record breaking. I mean law enforcement and Judges have seen some filthy disgusting things in Centre County involving sexual abuse of children, but this was a ton of megabytes worth the most unimaginably morally defunct abhorrent things you wouldn’t even want to imagine.
“Although detective Martin cannot bind the Centre County District Attorney’s office with promises as to charging decisions, the prosecution cannot then use evidence obtained as a direct result of those promises against the defendant. Therefore, the court finds that the defendant’s statements were not voluntary and must be suppressed,” former President Judge Thomas Kistler said in a notice of appeal ruling on May 4, 2016. “By ordering suppression of this evidence, the court has put defendant back in the same position as he would have been had he not spoken to detective Martin.
Parks Miller would appeal Kistler’s decision to Superior Court. Superior Court, in examining the same evidence as Kistler, made the same decision. Affirming Kistler’s decision, even before Bernie Cantorna had been elected or taken office. As in this mistake would have occurred with or without Bernie being elected.
And the Superior Court, from what I read also sat on it for a while. The mistake was so eggregious, and the evidence was so overwhelming and so disgusting, that they probably too were looking – like Kistler – for that loophole. Because who wants someone like this roaming the streets, living in Ferguson township, where there are children and parks and schools, and bus stops and young families everywhere. At every juncture in time, this case seemed to sit a little while everyone looked for a loophole.
But Parks Miller had struck a deal with the devil, one charge for your complete cooperation. And it was inpenetrable to the judges, or the prosecutors who took over the case. Out of all the mistakes she made in office, this has to be the one that disturbs me the most.
“I have no evidence to proceed in this criminal case,” McGraw said [to the press].
Court of Common Pleas Judge Brian Marshall attempted to clarifying the situation after McGraw’s statement.
“You’re saying you have no useable evidence in either case?” Marshall asked.
McGraw again said he has no statements and no evidence to proceed.
“It does not appear that the court is left with any option other than to grant the motion in both cases,” Marshall said.
To the defense of the Cantorna administration they got his case after Superior Court had ruled against Parks Miller. After Kistler had ruled against Parks Miller. I know they lost sleep and were sick about it too. Of course I didn’t hear that personally from Cantorna or any of his supporting lawyers, but I know the way Cantorna works. He is strategic. He sat on a bit, probably lost some sleep, looked for and searched for every loophole. Thought about his two daughters and the people in this community, thought about Chris Lee, read every piece of the law, ever page of the file, every potential appeal…. and then came to the same conclusion every Judge did…..
Parks Miller really screwed the community on this one. And it’s pretty bad. Keep your children close…. Particularly if you live in Ferguson Township. There is a pedophile among you, maybe he hasn’t acted, but the pornography collection – with that extensiveness of a collection – he was/is on the verge.
Watch your children.
Parks Miller’s disciplinary board hearing is on April 23rd. She not only hurt people caught up in the criminal justice system with excessive charges and cruelly long sentences, she was a threat to the public.
The best we can hope for on this case is Zydney registering for Megan’s Law.