A Model Prisoner

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

Colorado's law is unusually broad, according to attorney Obenberger. "The Colorado legislature basically seems to have said, 'If you take pictures of anyone under eighteen that is the least bit hot, that's a crime.' Yet society does tolerate people under age looking hot," he points out.

In the affidavit the CBI prepared to convince a judge to agree to a no-knock raid on Grady's studio, a Jeffco investigator reported that while surfing trueteenbabes, he saw that models exposed their "buttocks area," and "the buttocks [are] considered an intimate part of the body under Colorado Revised Statutes."

While it's true that the buttocks are considered an intimate part of the body, that statute only applies to sexual assault cases. Nowhere are buttocks mentioned in the laws that Grady was being charged with breaking.

Jim Grady, back in business, takes aim at one of his 
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.

There were other mistakes in the no-knock request. One section focused on Jessica's sexual-assault allegations the year before -- but failed to mention that Grady been cleared. It also implied that Jessica had posed naked with a vibrator while still a minor, something Jessica herself never claimed.

And included at the end of the request for a search were five pictures from the trueteenbabes Web site that were intended to convince the judge that Grady's business had to be shut down immediately. Yet three of the photos were of girls who were eighteen years old -- legal adults, in other words, and thus irrelevant in an investigation of "exploitation of a child."

Police staked out Grady's studio most of the day. After the warrant was signed late on the afternoon of April 5, the cops went into action -- with two TV stations filming them all the while. They were 9News and Fox 31, the two stations that had tipped off authorities in the first place. Inside the studio were two females, one in jeans and the other in a store-bought bathing suit, both eighteen years old. Nearby, a male technician was working on a VCR -- not exactly the live, underage sex show that news coverage later hinted at.

Over the next few hours, the police seized hundred of pieces of evidence. According to inventories, the Arapahoe County sheriff's department took not only every computer and piece of photo equipment in the place, but also thousands of unopened CDs, a blue beanbag chair, tables, a scooter, a Schwinn bicycle and several potted plants. The sheer volume and randomness of the confiscation suggest that no one was really clear on what they were there to find.

In their interviews with Grady's models, investigators also seemed uncertain of what they needed to learn (see "The Girls Next Door" ). And it took at least three people, working under the guidance of the Arapahoe County District Attorney, to decide which of the pictures might be illegal.

Bob Chappell, the deputy DA who prosecuted Grady, insists that there was never any real dispute over which photos broke the law. "These pictures caught our attention," he says. "There wasn't ever any need to argue. We knew it when we saw it."

All the trueteenbabes photos are racy; none would show up in a high school yearbook. Yet the 220 pictures the cops eventually determined to be illegal show a wide range of tastes -- and interpretations of the law. While some feature girls in sheer tops, in others girls are wearing bathing suits or blouses you might see at any high school. (A sheriff's investigator pointed out that two girls are touching in one photo -- a hint of sexual activity. In reality, the photo shows one girl jamming a washcloth into another's mouth.)

About half of the pictures that authorities eventually decided fit the definition of child porn had never even been developed, Grady says. Several were outtakes from long sequences of photos that he claims would either have been retouched or never have been posted at all.

The jury, Grady says, saw what the public never did.

While Grady sat in jail, he didn't have much reason to feel confident. Under outgoing DA Jim Peters, the district attorney's office had been extremely aggressive about prosecuting sex crimes. In 2002, the 18th Judicial District filed more sexual-assault cases than any other district; it also brought more cases to trial than any other in the state.

While this would be Arapahoe County's first trial involving alleged violations of the "exploitation of a minor" law, other cases had been successfully prosecuted under the Colorado statute. Most notable was a five-year-old case involving Wayne Gagnon.

Gagnon had been caught with photographs he'd taken of a sixteen-year-old girl in a public park. He'd met the girl over the Internet and had taken the pictures with her permission. Although the girl's breasts were only "partially exposed" (in one picture, her hands appeared to be opening her blouse), Gagnon was nevertheless found guilty and sentenced to twelve years in prison: The jury had decided that he'd taken the pictures for his own sexual gratification. While that was never directly proven -- Gagnon hadn't been caught masturbating to them, for example -- the jury determined there was no other reason he would have taken them.

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