April 17, 2014

Elyria
Mostly clear
55°F
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Ex-officer pleads no contest to child porn, ID theft but plans appeal

ELYRIA — Former Avon police Officer Michael Kish pleaded no contest Wednesday to child pornography and identity theft charges, although defense attorney Dan Wightman said his client continues to maintain his innocence.

The only reason Kish entered the plea, Wightman said, was so he can appeal Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Raymond Ewers’ decision to reject a motion to throw out evidence gathered by police during their search of Kish’s computer.

Kish, 52, contends that the affidavit used to obtain a search warrant for his home contained numerous factual errors that, if they hadn’t been included, would have led a judge to deny the search warrant request.

Police originally sought the search warrant after Avon police Officer Josh Stell received a notification from LorainCounty.com informing him that his account had been suspended for abusive posts.

Stell didn’t actually have a LorainCounty.com account. Instead, police determined that Kish created the account using Stell’s email and using the name of Stell’s wife as the password. They later determined that the posts under the account had come from Kish’s residence by tracing the IP address.

After seizing his computer, police discovered what appeared to be pornographic movies featuring children and obtained a second warrant to conduct additional investigation.

Although Ewers determined that the affidavit to get the first search warrant contained information that “is misleading and false,” he wrote that once that information was removed, there was still probable cause for the search warrant to be issued.

Ewers also wrote that he didn’t address the question of whether police had enough evidence to suspect Kish of identity fraud or whether what Kish did was covered by First Amendment protections for free speech.

Wightman said that unless Kish was found guilty, he wouldn’t have been able to challenge Ewers’ decision. Now that Kish has pleaded out, he said, that appeal can proceed.

He also said that the whole investigation has been motivated by a dislike for Kish —who was fired in 2006 — by members of the Avon Police Department and had nothing to do with identity fraud. He said Kish never claimed to be Stell while posting under the name of “Joshua” on LorainCounty.com.

“The real complaint against Kish was he was criticizing Avon police officers,” Wightman said.

Kish also has adamantly denied the child pornography found on his computer belonged to him.

Wightman said the computer had LimeWire, a now-defunct online file-sharing program, and that the material may have been accidentally downloaded. He also said it’s possible someone could have placed the child pornography onto Kish’s computer without his knowledge.

Whatever the case, Wightman said, police and prosecutors have no evidence proving that Kish downloaded the pornographic material.

County Prosecutor Dennis Will did not return a call seeking comment on the plea.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.