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Ed Arnold pleads not guilty to child porn charges

The embattled Arroyo Grande city councilman accused of beating a 28-year-old woman in December pleaded not guilty Wednesday to two new charges involving child pornography.

Ed Arnold entered his plea to the charges of possessing child pornography and using a minor for pornographic images after Judge Barry T. LaBarbera granted a motion by Deputy District Attorney Greg Devitt to add the new allegations.

Investigators allegedly found pictures on a computer of underage naked girls and a video of a 16-year-old foreign-exchange student from Spain who was showering.

The photos and video allegedly were found on a personal computer at Arnold’s residence in Pismo Beach after he moved out of an Arroyo Grande home he had previously shared with his wife, Kathryn, and their two children.

Arnold’s attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, said after the court hearing that his client “has done nothing wrong.”

Funke-Bilu vowed that Arnold will remain on the City Council. Funke-Bilu also called the council’s decision Tuesday to consider sending Arnold a letter urging him to resign a “political lynching of the worst kind.”

“It goes against everything it means to be American,” Funke-Bilu said. “What the council is doing is shameful.”

Funke-Bilu said his client is innocent until proved guilty, and that he has been a “top-notch” councilman who has gone to meetings prepared.

Arnold, 45, appeared in court Wednesday and acknowledged his understanding of the legal proceedings to the judge, but he made no comments about the case in court or to the media.

In January, Arnold pleaded not guilty to five felony charges, including assault with a deadly weapon and domestic violence, for his alleged role in a Dec. 15 attack on the woman.

According to court documents, Arnold, the woman and Arnold’s wife were involved in a love triangle. The alleged victim said in court documents that Arnold blamed her for the breakup of his marriage.

Funke-Bilu said his client’s private life should be separated from his public work and that Arnold, who did not appear at Tuesday’s council meeting, is taking “the high road” by not speaking publicly about his legal case.

Funke-Bilu said he expects the case to proceed to trial and that he “feels good about the defense.”

Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara declined to comment Wednesday about Funke-Bilu’s comments about the council’s consideration of the letter.

Ferrara said Tuesday night the “extremely serious” charges facing Arnold have become a drain on city resources and distracted staff from focusing on day-to-day business.

He told The Tribune on Wednesday that the city has had to deal with Arnold’s legal case in various ways, including fielding calls from the public about a possible recall and other questions, addressing legal concerns and responding to media requests.

City Clerk Kelly Wetmore said the staff has received 10 to 12 phone calls regarding Arnold since Monday. Of those, three people spoke to Wetmore about the recall process. She said the city has received several additional calls from the media this week.

Arnold is scheduled to be back in court for a pre-preliminary hearing May 5. Tribune staff writer Cynthia Lambert contributed to this report.

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