Last October police found what they describe as graphic child pornography at the home of Ashland resident James Auchincloss, half-brother to the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Police believe the photos of naked or partially clothed prepubescent boys are evidence that Auchincloss, 62, may have committed two felonies by "encouraging child sexual abuse," according to police statements in search warrant papers obtained by the Ashland Daily Tidings.
Police also searched the home of Eagle Point resident Dennis Vickoren, described as a friend of Auchincloss, and believe the 57-year-old committed the same crimes, according to the search warrant documents.
The police investigation is ongoing and neither man has been charged. Despite evidence that the men also have taken photographs of clothed children locally, police say the case has not been given a high priority because they believe there is no immediate threat.
In an Oct. 17, 2008 affidavit for a search warrant, Detective Arthur LeCours with the Ashland Police Department said he found photographs in booklets and on carousel slides of naked, 7- to 16-year-old boys in sexual poses at Auchincloss' home and had probable cause to believe that the Ashland man was encouraging child sexual abuse in the first, second and third degrees.
In addition, two Ashland residents, Eddy McManus and Karl Iverson, told the Daily Tidings that they saw Auchincloss and Vickoren viewing child porn on a computer in Auchincloss' home, located in the 700 block of Benjamin Court, last summer.
Auchincloss, who has lived in Ashland since 1995 and serves on the board of Oregon Stage Works, declined to comment on what police found at his home, saying that it was "a matter for the courts," but did say he hasn't harmed anyone.
Auchincloss also said he believes McManus, his former personal assistant, had an ulterior motive in telling police he had child pornography because Auchincloss had accused McManus of stealing $18,000 from him. McManus, a 44-year-old Ashland artist and Southern Oregon University student, denied stealing money from his former employer and said he told police about the pornography because he felt it was the ethical thing to do.
Vickoren, a Rogue Valley Transportation District bus driver who also produces and directs "Wilde Life," a show about gay issues on Rogue Valley Community Television, did not return messages seeking comment.
Since October, Ashland police detectives have been waiting for the Southern Oregon High-Tech Crimes Task Force, a division of the Central Point Police Department, to analyze and return computers and other electronic equipment they seized at the homes of both Auchincloss and Vickoren, said Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness.
He also said the Ashland Police Department "stand(s) by what's in the affidavits of the search warrants," documents obtained by the Daily Tidings. The documents are sealed with the Jackson County Circuit Court because the investigation is ongoing. However, identification numbers on envelopes at the court containing the documents match those on the papers the Daily Tidings obtained.
The electronic data seized at Auchincloss' and Vickoren's homes has been sitting in the Central Point lab for more than eight months because the task force assigned a lower priority to the case than other cases it received, said Sgt. Josh Moulin, the task force commander. Task force officials usually assign a lower priority to cases they believe don't involve "live victims in danger" and in which the suspects are already known to police, he said.
Holderness said the case was the most important one his department sent to the lab, and that, although he had expected the task force to be finished with the data by now, he understands the prioritizing of the case.
"We have no reason to believe that anything involving this case is directly impacting the physical safety of our children in this community," he said. "If we did it would have been done by now."
The lab — the only one of its kind in Southern Oregon — is severely understaffed, Moulin said. Just one other officer helps Moulin scour the huge amounts of electronic files the task force receives, resulting in a backlog of data. Generally, five months pass before an officer even looks at data from a case, which can then take months to analyze, Moulin said.
He said he couldn't estimate when the lab will be finished with the Auchincloss-Vickoren case. The task force has almost finished sifting through electronic files taken from one of the men and is about 50 percent through the data from the other suspect, Moulin said, declining to distinguish between the two sets of electronic equipment.
When the lab is finished analyzing the data, it will send a report to the Ashland Police Department that may include information about who was responsible for any illegal activity on the computers and other electronic equipment seized, Moulin said.
If Ashland detectives have sufficient evidence that crimes have occurred, they will hand the case over to the Jackson County District Attorney's Office, Holderness said.
In Oregon, a person convicted of encouraging child sexual abuse in the first degree can be sentenced to about four years in prison, or can receive as little as three to five years of probation, depending on the person's criminal record, said David Orr, a Jackson County deputy district attorney.
Although police already have some evidence that Auchincloss and Vickoren may have been "encouraging child sexual abuse," according to the search warrant affidavit, detectives are waiting for the lab report before they make any decisions about what to do with the case, Holderness said.
"At this point we're not ready to present anything to a judge or a grand jury," he said.
The investigation began in August when McManus told police that Auchincloss was "in possession of child pornography," according to the affidavit. On Oct. 14, after LeCours had met with McManus and viewed DVDs taken from Auchincloss' house that contained child porn, police searched Auchincloss' and Vickoren's houses, LeCours said in the affidavit.
In addition to computers and electronic equipment, police seized carousel slides and booklets found at Auchincloss' home, LeCours said in the affidavit. "Several of the slides appeared to contain images of prepubescent boys engaged in sexual acts," he said.
After the search, LeCours viewed some of the slides, he said in the affidavit.
"I have reviewed one of the seven carousel slide trays and found 12 slides containing photos of boys between the ages of 7 and 16," LeCours said. "The slides depicted boys partially nude or totally nude."
Three days after police searched Auchincloss and Vickoren's homes, a judge granted police the right to intercept and search the two men at the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport, when police believed they would be returning from a weeklong trip, the search warrant states. Police executed the warrant at the airport on Oct. 20 and seized a video camera, digital camera, iPod, laptop computer and other electronic equipment belonging to Auchincloss, according to a "return of search warrant" report completed by LeCours.
Auchincloss said Monday that he was still waiting to find out what exactly police had found at his home and among his belongings at the airport. When asked whether he thought he had done anything wrong, Auchincloss said, "I don't think I've done something that harmed anybody and that would harm anyone. I don't think I'm that type of person."
He also said that McManus had the opportunity to place porn on his computers.
McManus adamantly denies putting any child pornography on Auchincloss' computer.
Additionally Auchincloss said he believes because he is a member of a prominent family, he has been singled out unfairly. Auchincloss and Onassis shared the same mother so his half-niece is Caroline Kennedy, who recently drew headlines as she considered seeking the New York Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton. She eventually withdrew her name from consideration.
"Obviously you don't like to be referred to in that manner and it's a very disgusting charge and it's a very dangerous charge because it can endanger one's life and their livelihood," Auchincloss said of the statements made in the police affidavit.
He didn't refute LeCours' statements in the affidavit concerning the child pornography found at his home, but said the situation was a matter of privacy.
"I think the point has to be, 'Is there a manner of being predators? Is there a manner of encouraging sex abuse by offering money or being in that trade?' And none of that is true," he said.
Marlene Mish, executive director of the Jackson County Children's Advocacy Center, said she couldn't speak to the Auchincloss-Vickoren case because she didn't know all of the details, but said generally people who view child pornography hurt children because they are creating a market for the exploitation of kids.
"All it's doing is encouraging the victimization of children around the world," she said.
McManus, who said he first realized Auchincloss was looking at child porn last May, said he was disgusted by what he found on Auchincloss' computer.
"It was just horror, shock and disbelief," McManus said. "You rub your eyes and go, 'Am I seeing what I'm seeing?'"
"This is pretty hardcore, very sexual stuff with little, little boys," he said.
About a month later, McManus and Iverson said, they saw Auchincloss and Vickoren watching a slideshow of child porn on a computer at Auchincloss' home, both McManus and Iverson said in separate interviews. Trying to settle the matter without going to the police, McManus had Ashland attorney Allen Drescher write a cease-and-desist letter to Vickoren in July to stop him from sending child porn to Auchincloss' computer, according to police documents.
When that didn't work, McManus went to the police.
"I started thinking about these kids, these poor kids. Thinking, 'Are there kids being hurt now?'" he said.
Iverson, 28, said he saw Auchincloss and Vickoren looking at porn three times at Auchincloss' home while he was visiting McManus, his friend. As Auchincloss' personal assistant, McManus was living on the bottom floor of the home.
McManus said Auchincloss and Vickoren frequently took photos of local kids. After Ashland's Fourth of July parade last year, McManus said he looked at photos Auchincloss and Vickoren had taken at the parade and that almost all of the photos were of young children.
Iverson, a musician and actor, said he thinks police should have placed a higher priority on the case.
"I would consider this to be extremely high priority," he said. "I feel that they're (children are) absolutely at risk. These are people that have different morals about families and family values."
McManus said he agreed that the case should have been resolved by now. He said he's upset that he still sees Auchincloss "hanging out in the kiddie section of the pool at the YMCA."
"He shouldn't be hanging out there, but he's still there," McManus said. "My biggest question right now is why does it take so darn long when you have all this evidence? Aren't they worried about other kids getting hurt in the meantime?"
Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or email@example.com.