A Lexington man will forfeit his house because he downloaded thousands of images of child pornography there over several years, a federal prosecutor announced Wednesday.
It's not unusual for authorities to seize houses and cars used to facilitate drug trafficking, but the forfeiture of Joseph Robert Leitner's house in the Chevy Chase neighborhood might be a first in a child-pornography case in Central and Eastern Kentucky.
Longtime prosecutors in U.S. Attorney James Zerhusen's office in Lexington said it was the first such case they were aware of, spokesman Kyle Edelen said.
Leitner, 62, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Lexington to one charge of receiving child pornography.
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He admitted collecting child pornography for years and had computers and CDs that contained more than 30,000 images of child pornography, some involving children as young as 6, according to his plea agreement.
The government moved to take Leitner's house because of the length of time he used it to download and view illegal images and the large volume of images involved, according to the agreement.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hydee R. Hawkins, who prosecuted Leitner, said she could not comment on his case.
Generally, though, taking property is a tool prosecutors should use to combat pornography when appropriate, such as when the property is used to further illegal activity over a long period, Hawkins said.
The issue is comparable to seizing houses or cars used to further drug trafficking, she said.
"Why should these individuals be treated any differently than someone who uses their home to sell cocaine or grow marijuana?" Hawkins said.
Authorities have seized homes elsewhere in the U.S in child-pornography cases, Hawkins said.
Leitner agreed to give up his house. His attorney, Jeff Darling, was not available for comment Wednesday.
The case against Leitner started after another man, David M. Allen, ordered child pornography in 2006 from a federal postal inspector working undercover, according to a court document.
When police went to investigate, Leitner answered the door at the address Allen had given at 417 Cochran Road, according to a court document.
The house is near the Cathedral of Christ the King and the parish elementary school.
When police were able to question Allen in 2008, he admitted having child pornography and said he got much of it from Leitner when he lived at Leitner's house in 2005 and 2006, according to a court document.
Allen was charged last year with attempting to receive child pornography, possessing child porn and using a minor to produce pornography. His case is pending.
Leitner faces between five and 20 years in prison when he is sentenced in October, according to a release from Zerhusen's office.