Joseph Michael Wandler of Sidney was charged with Sexual Abuse of Children, a felony, for allegedly possessing pictures and a video file on a cell phone of children engaged in sexual acts.
Wandler, represented by a private attorney, made an initial appearance in the 7th District Judicial Court, Richland County, on Monday Feb. 3, 2020. He is charged with knowingly possessing digital images and/or a video on his cellular phone and/or Tumblr blog of children under the age of 18 “engaged in sexual conduct, actual or simulated,” according to court information.
The alleged activity reportedly took place between June 1, 2018 and Feb. 25, 2019, according to court information filed by attorney Janet Christoffersen on behalf of Richland County and the state of Montana.
If convicted of the offense of sexual abuse of children for the possession of explicit images and/or a video, Wandler could face imprisonment for up to 10 years in state prison and fines not to exceed $10,000.
Alleged Facts in the Case
The case stems from an investigation made by Agent Andrew R. Yedinak of the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation.
On Sep. 11, 2018, Yedinak received a “cybertip” report about an individual using the screen name joseph59270, who had uploaded 16 images and videos to a Tumblr account of child sexual abuse between June 1, 2018 and Sep. 4, 2018.
The Tumblr account was also associated with an email address —firstname.lastname@example.org — according to an affidavit submitted to the 7th District Court.
The alleged images, described explicitly in court documents, were reviewed by Yedinak, who investigated the allegations against Wandler.
“Yedinak learned through the investigation that some of the images had been uploaded from a home” located in Sidney, Mont., and from a local sporting-goods store, where the defendant is alleged to have worked, court documents stated.
“Furthermore, the information indicated that some of the images had been uploaded using a black Samsung Galaxy 8 cellphone with a unique identifier, called an IMEI number.”
Upon further investigation, Yedinak learned that Wandler reportedly worked at the Sidney sporting-goods store and lived at the residence from which the explicit images were allegedly uploaded.
Yedinak reported he made contact with Wandler “at his place of business in Sidney” and the defendant “admitted that he may have child pornography images on his phone.”
After asking to see the cellphone and confirming it was a black Samsung model with the IMEI [International Mobile Equipment Identity] number matching the one associated with the alleged crime, Yedinak seized the phone and had it forensically analyzed.
“Analysis of the phone revealed 254 pictures and 71 video files of children engaged in sexual acts,” according to court documents.
Based on the reported facts filed in the case, Wandler was arrested, charged with the felony offense, and taken into custody, Yedinak stated in an affidavit.
Wandler, whose bail was set at $250,000, was ordered by District Court Judge Katherine M. Bidegaray to appear in court for an Entry of Plea on Monday, Feb. 10, 2020.
An Omnibus (pretrial) hearing is set for March 9, 2020.