Novato officer charged with receiving child porn

- A Novato police officer charged with receiving obscene material from a minor in Texas is scheduled to be arraigned in Sonoma County Superior Court later this month.

Michael Manuel Ramirez, 35, of Rohnert Park, was charged on Dec. 29 with felony possession or control of obscene matter depicting a minor under 18 engaging in a sex act, felony use of a minor under 18 to assist or perform sexual conduct and misdemeanor annoying or molesting a minor under age 18.

Ramirez, a member of the Novato Police Department for six years, allegedly received messages containing pornographic images by smartphone from a Texas girl under age 13 for several months in early 2015, Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety Sgt. Jeff Justice said.

“Based on the forensic search of those devices, we were able to obtain enough information to get the District Attorney’s office to file charges in the case,” explained Justice. “There was no child pornography found in the devices, but based on the messages and the victim's statement of what was occurring, there had been nude or pornographic images sent by the victim."

Texas authorities, who pretended to be the girl after the girl's mother discovered the images, traced the recipient to a Rohnert Park internet address, Justice said.

"Unfortunately it's occurring quite frequently. With advances in smart phones and that kind of thing, we're seeing a lot more of these types of crimes."

Rohnert Park detectives then were contacted in April by a computer crimes task force in Texas, Justice said.

“You don't ever want to have knowledge that another officer has been involved in something like this, or any crime,” Justice remarked. “As with any case or any person who's potentially committed a crime, we want to get to the bottom of it and determine whether or not they were responsible for the crime.”

Rohnert Park investigators took Ramirez's computer and phone at his residence in May and continued the investigation before presenting the case to the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office, Justice said.

Ramirez appeared in court on Dec. 29 and posted $30,000 bail on Dec. 30. He is on paid administrative leave and his next court date is Jan. 29.

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