Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/08/2012 09:09:50 PM PDT

Sam Clauder was gaining momentum in 2009 as a mover and shaker in San Bernardino County politics, aligning himself with the Democratic Central Committee and landing a job as an aide to Rep. Joe Baca.

Then, a child pornography rap in March of that year ended it all.

Based on allegations made by Clauder’s wife and son and pornographic images found on Clauder’s personal computer, the District Attorney’s Office charged Clauder with felony possession of child pornography.

Stories appeared in newspapers. Clauder’s career in politics was over and his reputation ruined.

From the beginning, Clauder maintained his innocence, saying the allegations were trumped up by his estranged wife and estranged son so his wife could gain leverage in a pending divorce case.

Clauder spent 50 days in jail and has spent roughly $40,000 over the last three years trying to clear his name. He paid $20,000 to El Segundo-based Elluma Discovery, a computer forensics company that examined Clauder’s computer hard drive and prepared an information-dense 6-page report that helped vindicate Clauder of his criminal charge.

On Sept. 28, after more than three years of legal battle, Clauder was vindicated. San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Maryanne Choi, presented with the new evidence from Elluma Discovery and additional witness statements, requested the case be dismissed “in the interest of justice.” Judge Glenn Yabuno granted the request.

Choi did not respond to a request for an interview. District Attorney spokesman Christopher Lee said in an e-mail that there was insufficient evidence to prove Clauder committed the alleged crime.

Forensic report

Clauder said he retained the services of Elluma Discovery in July. It took roughly a month for computer forensics expert Sheryl Katz to examine the same computer hard drive the sheriff’s High Tech Crime Detail examined and produce her report, which revealed:

No child porn had been downloaded from any of the newsgroup accounts on Clauder’s computer alleged to have been the source of child porn.

The most likely source for several pornographic images found on the computer was from peer to peer networking software used on the account of Clauder’s son, Trey Stancher.

A timeline of computer use showed Clauder’s computer had nearly 30,000 system events, with daily activity, between May 1 and July 7, 2008, when Clauder had not been residing at the house.

Included in hidden folders in Trey Stancher’s account were data for the peer to peer file sharing programs Limewire, Shareaza and Frostwire, portable versions of which can be installed on a thumb drive and plugged into the computer for use. Peer to peer file transfer, Katz said, is the most commonly used method for sharing child porn.

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