Detectives Continue Investigation of Artist Accused of Possessing Child Pornography - NBC Southern California

Detectives Continue Investigation of Artist Accused of Possessing Child Pornography

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    Detectives Continue Investigation of Artist Accused of Possessing Child Pornography
    Paul Rusconi was arrested on suspicion of lewd acts upon a minor and possession of child pornography, according to the Los Angeles County Sherriff's Department.

    Los Angeles County Sheriff’s detectives are continuing to investigate whether images on a computer of  a well-known LA-based artist may constitute child pornography.

    Paul Rusconi was arrested on suspicion of lewd acts upon a minor and possession of child pornography at his Malibu home Friday, according to the Los Angeles County Sherriff's Department.  He was booked at Lost Hills Sheriff’s station and released Saturday night after posting $220,000 bail.

    The children depicted in the photos are Rusconi's own twin daughters, 20 months old.  He is a single father.  The children were placed with child protective services, according to Sherriff's Spokesperson Lillian Peck.  

    The suggestion there is anything pornographic in the photos is disputed by Michael Chaney, Rusconi's attorney.

    "These are photos as innocent as any photos of kids growing up you'd find in any parent's scrapbook," Chaney told NBC LA's Kim Baldonado.  Chaney said Rusconi wanted to have photos of his children in all aspects of their lives, including bathing.

    The images were brought to the attention of the Sheriff's Department  by someone doing repair work on Rusconi's computer, said Steve Whitmore, Sheriff's spokesman.    Some of the photos  show Rusconi skinny dipping with his toddler daughters,  according to NBC LA sources.   Whitmore declined to discuss the contents of the photos.

    The issue now becomes whether or not there are sexual overtones to what appears in the photos.

    Experts in this area of the law say merely depicting children and a parent  unclothed is not necessarily pornographic or illegal. But if that finding is made,  Rusconi being in the photos is what possibly could also result in a lewd conduct charge.

    At this point, no charges have been filed against Rusconi.  The Los Angeles District Attorney's office will not be asked to  make a filing decision until investigators finish examining what's on the computer seized from Rusconi's home during a search following Rusconi's arrest, Whitmore said.

    Chaney noted that Rusconi gathers images as part of his artistic pursuits and estimated there may be as many as  20,000 photos on the computer.  Chaney added he is "very confident none of them could even remotely be considered to be child pornography."

    Friends say Rusconi has been falsely accused.

    "He's a great personality and a likable guy" said Frank Langen, who owns an art gallery in Santa Monica, which  displayed some of Rusconi's work during a February exhibition.

    Art dealer Debbie Frank, who described herself as a close friend and colleague of Rusconi's,  told NBC LA she doesn't believe he would harm his children.

    "There's not a thought in my mind that anything can be any different than him being 100% falsely accused,"  Frank said. "All I know is that Paul is an amazing father, person. His kids are completely in love with him and this is 100% untrue, false, and nothing, nothing makes sense but I'm here for Paul and I'm here for the kids."

    Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau Detectives is handling the investigation.

    Rusconi has not responded to requests for comment, entrusting that to his attorney.