Owensville man indicted by federal grand jury

Dave Marner

An Owensville man taken into custody last week by Homeland Security investigators on allegations of producing child pornography has been indicted by a federal grand jury in St. Louis.

Michael S. Foster, 27, remains in federal custody following a true bill grand jury indictment issued Thursday alleging he enticed a minor male child to engage in sexually explicit conduct to produce child pornography with a cellular phone. The indictment also alleges Foster downloaded at least three sexually explicit images onto a computer hard drive and the internet.

The three-count indictment was returned in open court March 29 before U.S. Judge Audrey G. Fleissig and referred to the docket of U.S. Magistrate Nannette A. Baker. The indictment lists revised criminal complaints for the three counts included in the indictment. Foster had initially been charged in a one-count criminal complaint filed by the U.S. District Attorney’s Office and signed off on by U.S. Magistrate Patricia L. Cohen.

Following a 16-minute preliminary hearing held Friday afternoon in Cohen’s courtroom, Foster remained in custody. Foster had a four-minute court appearance last Wednesday where the judge ordered he remain in custody until his trial on the federal complaint alleging he produced child pornography. That ruling was based on a motion filed March 27 by the U.S. District Attorney’s Office.

Foster was initially charged with one count in the federal complaint with production of child pornography under Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 2251 (a). Additional charges were expected, according to Owensville Police Det. Rob Green, as the investigation was still in progress at the time the original complaint was filed on March 27.

Foster was taken into custody that afternoon after investigators from the Department of Homeland Security drove directly to Owensville from the Eastern District Court in St. Louis after Cohen issued the criminal complaint. The original complaint notes the production of child pornography specific to this charge took place in Jefferson County.

The complaint lists dates from July 1, 2017, to March 24, 2018, for when the criminal conduct took place. The affidavit accompanying the complaint was sealed by the judge’s order on March 27.

On March 28, Cohen ordered the appointment of a federal public defender to represent Foster.

“Because of defendant’s present charge, there is a presumption that no conditions of bond can ensure the community’s safety,”  according to the motion by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert F. Livergood.

Livergood cited Title 18, of the U.S. Code section 3142 (e) which notes “it shall be presumed that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of the community is the judicial officer finds that there is probable cause to believe that the person committed an offense…involving a minor victim (under section 2251)…”

“Defendant cannot show that there is any condition or combination of conditions that will assure the safety of the community,” the prosecution’s motion noted.

In the revised charges cited in the federal grand jury indictment, Foster is alleged to have “knowingly employ, use, persuade, induce, entice, “SP” who was a minor, to engage in sexually explicit conduct, specifically, defendant photographed “SP” in a lascivious display of his genitals, and said sexually explicit conduct was for the purpose of producing visual depictions of such conduct, and such depictions were produced using a Western Digital hard drive and a Samsung cell phone…”

In count 3 of the indictment, Foster is alleged to have “knowingly transported child pornography using any means and facility of interstate and foreign commerce, in an affecting interstate and foreign commerce by any means, including by computer, to wit, the defendant  transported via his Samsung cell phone and the Internet, image files that contained child pornography.”

Three JPG images were referenced by a numerical sequence in the indictment which were noted as being in violation of “Title18, United States Code, Section 2252A(a)(l).” 

Each photograph listed in the indictment contained a narrative which referenced a “prepubescent minor male.” Green said investigators believe the boy was photographed by Foster at a residence in Jefferson County. The boy appears to have been the son of an immediate family member of a female companion to one of Foster’s siblings. 

The incident appears to have taken place while other adults were in the home during a pre-holiday gathering. Green said investigators were trying to determine if another minor child at the residence in Jefferson County, a 2-year-old girl,  was also photographed by Foster.