Video chat leads to child pornography arrest

Michael Kovall (submitted)

LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) – A Lancaster County man was arrested for child pornography after police said an unknown, private citizen posed as a teenage girl and recorded their video chat.

23-year-old Michael Kovall faces felony charges, but one defense attorney told ABC 27 News he feels the case started under suspicious circumstances.

According to court documents, the man posed as a 13-year-old girl and invited Kovall to a private video chat. When Kovall accepted, the man recorded the chat and posted the video to Facebook.

“To go out there on the internet, as a private citizen, and act as an underage person [is] very dangerous,” said Jeff Konrad, a criminal defense attorney based in Lancaster.

According to the criminal complaint, the video includes an introduction where the Facebook account owner explains he created the page to catch child predators. In the video, Kovall terminates the video chat when he is confronted about his age and actions.

Police said there was no criminal activity in the video, but they contacted Kovall to discuss it. He is said to have admitted to trying to communicate with a 13-year-old girl and that he viewed about 50 images of child pornography in the past year. A dozen images of children either nude or engaged in sexual acts were found on his laptop computer, police said.

“They didn’t bother with the unlawful aspect of contact with a minor,” Conrad said.

Prosecutors are unclear of the intentions of the man who recorded and posted the video.

Conrad said in Pennsylvania, police have certain powers when trying to catch someone online that don’t extend to everyone else. He said it’s not a good idea to pursue vigilante justice.

“You are going to draw the attention of federal law enforcement, you’re going to draw the attention of state law enforcement, and you don’t have the power to do it,” Conrad said.

Kovall was charged with felony counts of child pornography and criminal use of a computer. His bail was set at $15,000 unsecured.

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