Johnsonburg man charged with child pornography headed to trial

A Johnsonburg man charged with 80 counts of possessing child pornography and 13 counts of sexual abuse of children, among other related offenses, is headed to trial with jury selection in the Commonwealth vs. Robert Gene Fitzgerald, 55, of Johnsonburg, scheduled for June. In his affidavit, investigating officer David Cuneo of the Johnsonburg Police reports that on Dec. 17, 2011 he was dispatched to 307 Spruce St., the home of Laura Reffitt, in response to a report of identity theft. Reffitt told Cuneo that she had been informed by friends that, unbeknownst to her, there was a provocative image of her on a website. The screen name attached to the image was that of Laura's mother, Florence Fitzgerald. Laura told Cuneo that the photo was in the possession of Robert Fitzgerald without her permission and being used without her consent.Cuneo then arrived at the residence of Robert and Florence Fitzgerald at 305 Spruce St., where Mr. Fitzgerald admitted to being a member of the website, but said that Reffitt was only trying to get him and his wife into trouble.Cuneo then asked if he could take a look around the house; Fitzgerald refused without the presentation of a search warrant. Cuneo was granted a search warrant for Fitzgerald's home by District Judge Donald Wilhelm shortly after their initial conversation. Cuneo returned to Fitzgerald's residence to obtain computers, hard drives, and any related materials or depictions of Laura Reffitt. Among the items Cuneo took into custody in his search of the home were a number of writable CDs, one which he had found in a garbage can."When Robert saw that I took the CD in the garbage can, he said 'Oh, you found them,'" Cuneo said. Cuneo reported Fitzgerald as then having asked him if "he could spend one more Christmas with his wife before I [Cuneo] did anything." According to the affidavit, in reviewing the evidence on Dec. 18, 2011, Cuneo found numerous photographic images and video files of child rape, sodomy and exposure with various stages of undress. Photos and videos were labeled with the sexual act and age of both young boys and girls engaging with adults, the range in ages including a baby boy and a four year-old girl. In the affidavit, Cuneo said he also discovered Fitzgerald had used an "evidence eliminator program" shortly after their first discussion.In his review of the evidence, Cuneo also located the image of Reffitt that had initiated the complaint against Fitzgerald. Cuneo asked if Fitzgerald would come to the station for an interview and advised him of what he had found on the items seized. "He [Fitzgerald] said he had been sick and nervous all night because of it and he is done with computers," Cuneo said in the affidavit.Pick up a copy of the Tuesday, March 6, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.