Florida Keys News
Saturday, July 5, 2014
Former Coast Guardsman to plea

A former Key West Coast Guardsman arrested two years ago in an Old Town "peeping Tom" case appears ready to plead guilty on a child pornography charge, according to court records.

The plea on Tuesday could end a string of back-and-forth motions filed in the past year between Ryan Witten, 27, and federal prosecutors. Most of the motions have been filed by Witten in an effort to get much of the evidence against him tossed by the judge, which have been largely unsuccessful.

Witten is facing a possession of child pornography charge that carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence if he's convicted.

Witten was previously convicted on June 13, 2013, in state court on five counts of video voyeurism and one count of loitering and prowling. Two weeks later, state circuit Judge Mark Jones sentenced him to 60 days in the Monroe County Detention Center, and three years probation.

A federal grand jury subsequently indicted Witten, 26, formerly of 620 Angela St., on one count of possessing a visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Four federal public defender's office attorneys have either been fired by Witten or withdrawn since the case began. He represented himself briefly before his latest lawyer, Jason Grey of Miami, was appointed by the court in January.

Grey could not be reached for comment.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brooke Watson took issue with Witten's most recent court filing in which he states he mistook four uniformed Key West police officers for carousing "frat boys," that police were investigating him only due to an anonymous tip, and that police illegally searched his backpack without probable cause.

Martinez had not ruled on Watson's petition for him to deny Witten's latest motion to suppress.

Witten maintains that he did not give Key West police permission to go through the images on a camera and an iPhone in his possession after his initial detainment in August 2012 following a foot chase on the 700 block of Whitmarsh Lane.

Officers claim to have found cameras on Witten with more than 100 "suspicious" images of women, many of whom seemed unaware they were being photographed. Some of them were in various stages of undress, according to police reports.

Many of the photos looked like they were taken through windows and fences, officers reported.

Evidence that became the basis of the federal case was unearthed in September 2012 when police found a locked seabag in Witten's BMW.

In the car was an Apple laptop, an external hard drive, 95 CDs, 35 DVDs, 21 VHS tapes, a Black and Decker tool bag, a gym bag marked "Coast Guard Ryan Witten" and other assorted gear, according to a federal criminal complaint filed June 28, 2013.

One of the CDs allegedly contained 30 images of naked children in sexually explicit poses and performing sexual acts, according to the complaint.

"Several of the prepubescent minors were clearly under the age of 12," the FBI agent wrote in the complaint.

There was no evidence in the complaint that any of the minors depicted were local, and no allegation in the complaint that Witten recorded local children.

U.S. District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez is the presiding judge.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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