HOW DAVID ASIMOV, THE BIGGEST CHILD PORN PROCESSOR IN CALIFORNIA SKATED AWAY FROM FEDERAL PRISON WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM HIS FRIENDS by Kathryn Dixon © 2000
David Asimov, of Living Oak Court, Bennett Ridge, Santa Rosa, the son of the late science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, was sentenced on March 28, 2001 to six months' home detention with electronic monitoring and three years federal probation for possessing child pornography. U.S. District Court Judge Maxine M. Chesney sentenced Asimov after reviewing a series of sealed psychiatric reports, one of which was ordered by the court. Asimov who was charged with four federal counts of possession of child pornography with each count carrying a five year sentence, pled guilty to two counts in a plea bargain deal. There was no forfeiture of any of Asimov's assets in this case, despite his owning a home in Santa Rosa purchased in 1996 for $375,000, and despite his receiving $3,000 per month from his father's estate.
How did Asimov, who possessed one of the largest stashes of pornography in California, skate away from federal prison? A look at the players yields the answer.
Asimov's child porn stash was so big many child victims and perpetrators would have taken a fall, had Asimov been zealously prosecuted at trial.
Asimov would probably have escaped detection, if he had not taken his personal computer to a store when its scanner and color printer malfunctioned. A technician working on the machine discovered images of children engaged in sexual acts with adults. A store supervisor contacted the police. Asimov's case is not the only case where tips about child porn were generated by store technicians. It seems either child pornographers are stupid about fixing their computers or they are unwitting framed.
The police raided Asimov's four-bedroom home with a search warrant and discovered the largest child porn "processing center" ever discovered in California.
"There were thousands of disks, thousands of videos," said Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney Gary Medvigy, who personally referred to Asimov's home as a "processing center" for child pornography. "Anything imaginable regarding sex between human beings and human beings, or human beings and animals, was there. Whatever your imagination can conjure up, he had it. It was like walking into a TV studio" Santa Rosa police seized scores of computer disks and approximately 4,000 videocassettes from Asimov's home, and approximately 1,000 of those videos contained child pornography.
Medvigy said he had evidence to show Asimov distributed child pornography through the Internet ``on at least a few occasions,'' which would constitute a felony. He said Asimov had 14 video machines arranged for high-speed editing and copying, and possessed cases of blank tapes.
In addition to the videotapes and computer disks recovered, police reportedly found video cameras, several VCRs, and a costly table-top scanner to create computer images. "He had a whole lot of editing and mass production capabilities," Santa Rosa Police officer Zamudio said. "We were greeted by thousands of tapes, disks, periodicals, and commercial videos with covers showing child pornography. We spent two days collecting, packaging, and transporting all the items."
The Sonoma County District Attorney J. Michael Mullins covered up the case, let the public believe the feds would prosecute it more thoroughly, and then passed the cover up to U.S. Attorney Mueller.
In March 1998, Asimov was arrested in Sonoma County and charged with two counts of felony exploitation of a child and possession of pornography. Asimov faced a maximum state penalty of six years. The identity of the child whom Asimov alleged exploited was never revealed to the public. Parents and associates of the child never came forward. Was there a secret settlement in the style of Michael Jackson? Was any effort at all made to identify the children in the tapes? In Europe, parents who are looking for their missing children or for evidence of child abuse are allowed to view pictures of faces of children depicted in porno tapes which are seized by the police. No one in Sonoma County reported any photo arrays seized from Asimov's home being shown by the police to any parents whose children were exploited or kidnapped.
Asimov was arraigned in Sonoma County Municipal Court, with bail set at $250,000. Asimov spent a few days in jail. His lawyer Andrian said Asimov had the money to post bail, but preferred to attempt to get out on his own recognizance. In fact, a few days later, Judge Frank Passalacqua released Asimov after having been told no local victims were identified in the porn seized from Asimov's home. Thus, within only a few days of his arrest, Asimov was released, because the police happened to know no local victims were involved. How could they have known so fast? Obviously, the Sonoma County Court didn't care that victims who were not "local" may have been involved. Someone's child was on those tapes.
"As far as local victims, we don't know of any. There are some homemade tapes,'' Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney Gary Medvigy told the judge. Why was a distinction made by the Sonoma County Judge and District Attorney regarding determining if Asimov's tapes involved "local" victims as opposed to non-local victims? What did District Attorney Mullins consider to be "local"? Within Sonoma County? Within California? Medvigy also acknowledged to Judge Passalacqua that the investigation was still in its infancy because of the massive amount of material taken from Asimov's house. Despite the investigation being in its "infancy", Judge Passalacqua set Asimov loose.
By releasing Asimov on his own recognizance, the Sonoma County Judge and prosecutor made it clear that they considered the case to be light weight. There was no pressure on Asimov to turn in any of his confederates or to spill the beans, when he was just lounging around his luxurious home, unemployed and enjoying Santa Rosa life. Asimov was ordered released on the condition he stay away from children, computers and the Internet. The public was expected to feel safe because Passalacqua sternly told Asimov he would have to comply with a list of conditions, including observing a curfew and allowing a probation officer to search his house at any time, and would have to take random chemical tests and engage in psychological counseling.
In July 1998, before a preliminary hearing commenced which would have put the massive amount of evidence before the public, suddenly Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney Gary Medvigy announced that U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco agreed to prosecute Asimov, 46, thus relieving Sonoma County of the prosecution. Sonoma Superior Court Judge Frank Passalacqua "conditionally'' dismissed the two felony charges against Asimov related to distributing child pornography. Passalacqua stated the charges were dismissed only so federal authorities could file their case and would be reinstated in 30 days if for some reason federal authorities did not proceed.
Medvigy tried to convince the public that the reason for the dismissal was that his office was limited in its ability to investigate the sources and possible distribution of the ``enormous'' amount of child pornography found in Asimov's home. Medvigy also cited the fact that much of Asimov's porn came from the internet and involved out-of-state and international sources, which made it more appropriate for federal authorities to take over. At this point, J. Michael Mullins apparently wanted the public to believe that the federal government was going to do a much more extensive prosecution of Asimov than Sonoma County authorities were able to do.
However, Asimov's attorney shed light on the true reason for the dismissal. Chris Andrian said he believed Sonoma County prosecutors handed the case to the feds because they had weak evidence of any felony being committed. Skating away from prison was on Asimov's mind.
Deputy District Attorney Medvigy stated about the dismissal, "We had hoped to show that it was not just for his personal viewing pleasure.''
U.S. Attorney Mueller delivered a sweet plea bargain to Asimov.
After having found thousands of images of child pornography in Asimov's "processing center", District Attorney J. Michael Mullins, washed his hands of the matter very carefully. Mullins' office and the Santa Rosa police made public statements that they spent "weeks" analyzing the pornography to determine whether Asimov was involved in production or merely possessed it for personal gratification. "I couldn't tell you if it was for personal use, national use, or international use," Medvigy said. "It's just too early to say."
Asimov was indicted by a federal grand jury in November 1999 on four counts of possessing images of child pornography. Because the grand jury transcript has not been released to the public, the public cannot determine whether evidence of distribution and sale of pornography was ever presented by the U.S. Attorney.
Did the grand jury see all 1000 videotapes of horrendous child pornography found in Asimov's home? If so, why did they only find four instances where pornography was possessed by Asimov? Did the grand jury see any evidence that Asimov transmitted or received the pornography via the internet on his computer, or manufactured it with his cameras, 14 video machines and high tech scanner? Who were the little children depicted on the tapes? Was the grand jury given any explanation by U.S. Attorney Mueller?
In December 1999, Asimov pled not guilty in federal court, and was released on his own recognizance. Again this type of release put no pressure on Asimov. Asimov enjoyed more balmy days at his Santa Rosa home.
The two previous charges in Sonoma County, included distribution of child pornography and felony exploitation of a child. The federal indictment did not include these charges, and only included lesser charges that Asimov possessed child pornography by downloading images from the Internet into his computer and onto a floppy disk. The federal charges also included the possession of one videocassette and one foreign magazine with images of children engaged in sex acts. Each of the four federal counts carried a potential sentence of five years in prison.
In the summer of 1999, U.S. Attorney Mueller engaged in plea deal with Asimov, by dropping two counts. At this point, Asimov and his attorney were close to obtaining a sentence which would not involve state prison or forfeiture of assets.
Mueller dropped the ball on the Asimov case. Because of the sealed grand jury testimony and sealed evidence, the public will never know the details about the one thousand of images of child pornography Asimov used and created and stored. The public is expected to believe that Asimov never distributed any of this pornography. From whom did he obtain this pornography. No public evidentiary hearings were ever held. Mueller did a good job protecting child pornographers in California.
Judge Maxine Chesney let Asimov skate federal prison by using psychiatric evidence as a basis for the sentence.
Ultimately, U.S. District Judge Maxine Mackler Chesney gave Asimov an incredibly light sentence. No prison. The plea bargain limited her sentencing options, yet she still could have sent Asimov to prison for several years. Instead, she took the road laid out for her by various psychiatrists. Asimov's attorney Andrian hired psychiatrists to examine his client. Then Judge Chesney, herself, appointed a psychiatrist to examine Asimov. Apparently, the psychiatric reports about Asimov and all his problems were somewhat convincing, or at least established a basis in the record for such a light sentence. The public will never know. These reports are sealed.
Judge Chesney was nominated by Senator Diane Feinstein and is the wife of former San Francisco Superior Court Judge Edward Stern. Judge Chesney served on the San Francisco Superior Court Bench prior to her appointment.
It is clear that Judge Chesney by this sentencing decision has signaled that public that even the biggest pornography processor in California can walk free on the streets.
ASIMOV'S LAWYER CHRIS ANDRIAN PLAYED HIS CARDS WELL FOR HIS CLIENT, AS DIRTY AS THOSE CARDS WERE.
Early in the case, Asimov's lawyer Chris Andrian, who has represented many child molesters in Northern California, promoted the theory that his client was a reclusive man. After his sentencing, Andrian said Asimov's arrest made him "look inside himself and try to figure out how he got there," even before Judge Chesney ordered counseling.
The following are various statements made by Andrian throughout the Asimov case. One can only conclude that Andrian utilized effect mind-control techniques on the public and on the District Attorney, U.S. Attorney and the courts by making statements to make his client look less than totally evil and by making it as easy as possible for the authorities to let his client skate away from serving a federal prison term.
U.S. Attorney Mueller, District Attorney J. Michael Mullins, the Santa Rosa Police, the FBI and U.S. District Court Judge Maxine Chesney all taught Mr. Asimov his lesson. They also taught a lesson to the children depicted in Asimov's 1000 video tapes, who suffered during the making of these brutal sexual exploitation tapes. These children, unlike Asimov, will not be able to put this matter behind them. Their fate, if they are still alive, makes Asimov's six-month sentence of six months of sitting at his home with an electronic monitoring bracelet on his ankle, look like a day at the beach.