An FBI agent testified Tuesday in federal court that a former Lexington firefighter admitted to downloading child pornography while on duty. But relatives and acquaintances of Eric J. Bradley say the accusations against him are hard to believe.
Bradley, 37, is accused of downloading about 50 videos and more than 100 photographs onto his laptop. He allegedly obtained the material from December 2007 through December 2008 while connected to the cable Internet at the Lexington fire station at 1098 South Cleveland Road, according to court records.
Bradley, who became a Lexington firefighter in September 2000, had been on paid administrative leave since July 3. He resigned Aug. 13, according to city officials.
The FBI obtained a warrant to search Bradley's home in Nicholasville on Aug. 13. Inside, agents discovered that the home was "beyond messy," FBI agent Mary Trotman testified at a hearing Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Lexington. There were adult pornography DVDs on the coffee table and sex toys on the bed of one of the home's three bedrooms, Trotman said.
"The home was in disarray, to say the least," she said. "There was stuff everywhere."
The agents did not recover any child pornography from the four computers and other items they seized from the home, Trotman said. But during the search, Bradley told Trotman that he had used the file-sharing program LimeWire to download child pornography onto his laptop while at the fire station, Trotman said.
"I went out, I looked for it, I downloaded it," Trotman said Bradley told her.
Bradley's laptop, which he had previously surrendered to agents, contained videos and photographs that showed children ages 2 to 12 involved in sexual acts, Trotman testified. Many of the clips the agent viewed were "much longer than five minutes," she said. The majority of the children appeared to be younger than 8, Trotman said.
Bradley was arrested the day of the search. He is being held in the Fayette County jail.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Todd delayed a decision about Bradley's release from jail until Monday.
"Quite frankly, it's a case that weighs pretty heavily on the scales I must consider," he said.
Bradley came to the attention of federal officials in 2008 during an investigation into online child pornography activity in Lexington. An investigator observed that an Internet protocol address assigned to the Cleveland Road fire station had "a large amount of files" that probably were child pornography, court records state.
Bradley initially denied any knowledge of child pornography on the computer, according to court records. But "Bradley indicated he was the sole user of the computer with the exception of his 14-year-old son and that he had no Internet service at his residence," an affidavit from Trotman states. Records showed that Bradley's son was never at the fire station where the child pornography was allegedly downloaded.
Bradley has full custody of his son, now 15. The teenager is staying with Bradley's sister.
Bradley's relatives, acquaintances and court-appointed attorney described the former firefighter as an outstanding citizen with a clean criminal record.
Bradley's mother, Mary Bradley, testified that the allegations against her son have surprised her family.
"Has your son ever been in trouble before?" Bradley's attorney, Thomas Lyons, asked.
"Absolutely not," she said.
Eric Bradley is a practicing registered nurse for St. Joseph Hospital, a job from which he is suspended because of his incarceration, Lyons said. He also was a member of the Army reserves.
"This comes as a shock to him, his family and probably the whole community," Lyons said.
Bradley's ex-wife, Tammy Madison, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that she doesn't think Bradley was involved with child pornography. The two were married for about eight years before they divorced on good terms, Madison said. They kept in touch occasionally because Bradley rented his home from Madison.
Madison said there was no indication of an interest in pornography when the couple were married.
"He's always been a responsible and respectful person," Madison said. "He's always helped others."