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A Model Prisoner

Cops thought they'd busted the largest child-porn ring in Colorado history. But that's not how the case developed.

Another former model, Julia, interviewed by two investigators from the Arapahoe County sheriff's department, told them that "'Jimmy' treated her in a total [sic] appropriate manner and that he never offered her drugs or alcohol nor was she touched or solicited," according to their reports.

Ashley, an under-eighteen model who worked extensively for Grady, declined to talk to Westword. But her new manager, Kevin Urrutia, says that neither Ashley nor her parents ever had a problem with the business. If anything, he says, Ashley only regrets doing work for the Internet, which in the modeling and glamour-photography business still carries a stigma of cheapness.

"If Ashley had been doing the same pictures for a Victoria's Secret catalog," Urrutia insists, "she'd be signing autographs for us today."

Jim Grady, back in business, takes aim at one of his 
models.
Anthony Camera
Jim Grady, back in business, takes aim at one of his models.
A tangled Web: The Internet helped Jim Grady's 
business take off.
Anthony Camera
A tangled Web: The Internet helped Jim Grady's business take off.

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By the beginning of 2002, Grady's various businesses had nine employees. Fifty models were working regularly for the trueteenbabes site.

But the good times wouldn't last. The first sign of trouble appeared in early March.

Although people often think they're anonymous on the Internet, they can be anything but. Grady's billing company provided a log of everyone who checked into his Web site. On March 4, a Littleton billing address showed up. It looked familiar, so Grady checked it out. He was right -- it was the Arapahoe County sheriff's department.

Grady wasn't worried: The state law defining child porn was tacked onto the studio's wall, and Grady's employees were careful to follow the rules. "We knew they were looking at us," he says. "But we changed nothing. There was a dumpster right outside the studio. We could've dumped everything in three seconds."

Unknown to Grady, the sheriff's department had been alerted to trueteenbabes by Ward Lucas, an investigative reporter and anchor for 9News. After receiving a tip about the site, Lucas called Arapahoe County Sheriff Pat Sullivan. An investigator assigned to the case then logged on to the site.

For the next three weeks, though, nothing more happened. "If we're exploiting young girls," Grady points out, "why didn't they take any action?"

That fell to the media. On March 24, a friend called Grady at his studio. "Turn on the radio!" he said. "They're talking about you!" Grady turned on Tom Martino's national consumer-protection program, and listened as his Web site was trashed. How could such smut be legal? Martino demanded. Grady says he tried to call the show, but he couldn't get through.

Later, it would be revealed that Martino had been contacted by an angry mother of one of Grady's models. Although she had signed the parental release form, the mother said, she'd been feeling sick and didn't really read it closely. She thought the pictures taken of the girls would be like those found in clothing catalogues.

A few days later, Grady got a call from a woman who said her name was Maria. She asked to come in for a modeling interview that afternoon.

Although the woman who showed up was clearly over eighteen, Grady remembers that she asked a lot of questions about his trueteenbabes.com business. At one point, she said that she had "a really promiscuous niece who wants to get into this."

"I told her she needed to get help for her niece, not a modeling gig," Grady says. The woman, a reporter for Fox 31, where Martino also worked, had a hidden video camera in her purse. (Grady wasn't fooled. Ten days later, when police burst into his studio, they confiscated "Maria's" application from Grady's desk. Across the top, Grady had written: "Fake/Martino.")

That night, someone from Fox 31 called Collin Reese, a CBI investigator, and told him about a photographer taking questionable pictures of young girls. Reese logged onto trueteenbabes "moments after receiving information from Fox 31," he later recalled.

With two law-enforcement agencies investigating Grady -- and at least two television stations watching closely to see where their tips would lead -- events sped up. On April 2, Reese and a Jefferson County sheriff's investigator met with a former model named Lyssa. The following day, an Arapahoe County sheriff's investigator contacted Reese to let him know that he, too, was working on the Grady case. The two agencies compared notes.

By April 5, Reese had drafted a request for a no-knock search warrant of Grady's business. Despite the participation of at least four law-enforcement agencies and a small army of cops, the document, designed to convince a judge that immediate intervention in Grady's business was necessary, contained a host of errors and -- deliberate or not -- deceptions.

Because Grady's pictures on trueteenbabes.com didn't show sexual acts, they didn't automatically qualify as child porn. So the state and county authorities investigating him turned to Colorado's "Exploitation of a Minor" statute. Like most laws that try to define morality, Colorado's law is at once specific and vague.

According to the "erotic nudity" section of the law, an illegal picture of a child features: "The display of the human male or female genitals or pubic area, the undeveloped or developing genitals or pubic area of the human male or female child, the human breasts, or the undeveloped or developing breast area of the human child, for the purpose of real or simulated overt sexual gratification or stimulation of one or more of the persons involved."

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