By Patti Weaver

 

    (Stillwater, Okla.)  — Former First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Etherington, 53, of Stillwater, who has been accused of possessing more than 100 videos or images of child pornography, has been ordered held in the Payne County Jail on $500,000 bail pending an initial appearance this afternoon at the Lincoln County Courthouse before a judge specially assigned to the case.
    Etherington, who had been with the district attorney’s office for eight years, prosecuted homicides in Payne and Logan counties until his arrest on Nov. 28 when he was fired by District Attorney Laura Austin Thomas. The Oklahoma Attorney General appointed Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler to prosecute the case; the presiding judge of the North Central Judicial Administrative District appointed Lincoln County Judge Emily J. Mueller to arraign Etherington.
    According to Payne County court records, when the parties appeared by video on Nov. 29 to be heard on bail for Etherington, defense attorney Joan Lopez of Oklahoma City asked that it be set at $25,000 with conditions, while the prosecutor from Tulsa County requested $500,000 with conditions, which the Lincoln County judge granted.
    Under Judge Mueller’s ruling, if Etherington posts $500,000 bail, he cannot have unsupervised contact with any minor child, possess a firearm, go within 1,000 feet of a school, park or mall, or have access to any computer or device with access to or capability to access the internet. Etherington would be required to wear an ankle monitor and be home from 9 pm to 6 am; he also would have to check in with Oklahoma Court Services once a week.
    Etherington was charged on Nov. 30 in Payne County with one count of aggravated possession of over 100 images of child pornography on Nov. 28, which carries a maximum penalty on conviction of life in prison, as well as sex offender registration. Etherington was also charged with one count of possession of child pornography between July 23 and July 24 for allegedly knowingly possessing on his Google drive a video of an adult raping a 6-year-old or 7-year-old girl, which carries a maximum penalty on conviction of a 20-year prison term.
    According to an affidavit by Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Lt. Nicholas Rizzi of the Internet Crimes Against Children Unit, on July 26 Google submitted a cyber tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding 57 image files that depicted suspected child sexual abuse material.
    “The suspect listed in the cyber tip was Kevin Etherington,” the affidavit alleged. “The report indicated that AT&T U-verse was the Internet Service Provider and the user was located in or around Stillwater, Oklahoma,” the affidavit alleged.
    A search warrant was sent to Google for additional content from a google account, the affidavit said. “A review of that data revealed that the subscriber was Kevin Etherington,” the affidavit alleged.
    Lt. Rizzi “located 153 video and picture files that contained child sexual abuse material. A copy of Kevin Etherington’s 2019 and 2020 tax return was located within the Google drive account,” the affidavit alleged.
    The two-count child pornography possession charge filed against the former Payne County prosecutor by Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Amy Dickens listed 12 employees of the OSBI as witnesses for the prosecution.
    The district attorney for Payne and Logan counties issued a news release on Nov. 28 that an attorney employed in her office had been arrested that night by the OSBI for possession of child pornography. Austin Thomas said that her review of the investigation “has resulted in this person’s dismissal from employment by my office.”