Crime

More than 40 people victimized by Paso Robles man in molestation case, officer says

Jason Robert Porter, accused of molesting 18 children in Paso Robles, sits in court for a pre-preliminary hearing.
Jason Robert Porter, accused of molesting 18 children in Paso Robles, sits in court for a pre-preliminary hearing. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

More than 40 people may have been victimized by a Paso Robles man accused of recording and sexually molesting children over the course of four years, a detective testified Monday during a preliminary hearing in a San Luis Obispo courtroom.

A Superior Court judge will decide Tuesday whether to uphold all 32 charges against Jason Porter, 44, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually assaulting five children and using a still or video camera to record 13 others between January 2012 and June 2016, according to a criminal complaint filed by the San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s Office.

Porter also faces charges of oral copulation or penetration of a child under 10 years old, lewd acts with a child, and using a concealed camera to record a person.

Porter was first arrested June 23 following an incident in which a woman claims she caught him taking lewd photographs of her daughter outside a home in the 1000 block of Vista Grande Street in Paso Robles. After he posted bail, investigators served a search warrant at his house two blocks away on the 800 block of Vista Grande and allegedly found thousands of images and videos of children engaging in sexual acts, including some showing Porter molesting children, according to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.

At Monday’s hearing, Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen heard testimony from Christopher McGuire, a Paso Robles Police Department sergeant.

During questioning by Deputy District Attorney Julie Antos, McGuire said that he served a search warrant at the home Porter, his wife and child, shared with his parents. McGuire testified that inside Porter’s locked office, officials found various cameras, laptops and storage devices that contained “thousands” of still images and videos of various people — mostly children — in various states of undress. In some of the videos, Porter filmed himself physically molesting his victims, McGuire said.

In one example, McGuire testified that Porter videotaped himself fondling and digitally penetrating a victim as she slept, with his wristwatch clearly visible and identifiable. Some videos were taken from outside bedroom windows as a victim was changing, McGuire said, and other videos were taken from a device Porter put on his shoe.

McGuire said Porter had hidden a surveillance camera inside the home’s bathroom, where a majority of the victims were videotaped. He said officers also found several pairs of young girls’ underwear, individually packaged in zip-lock bags with names written on them.

Antos listed more than 40 people, some as young as 2 or 3, who were identified in the photos and footage.

In his follow-up interviews with the victims and their families, McGuire found that many of them were friends and acquaintances of the Porter family who visited the house for pool parties, birthday parties and other supposedly kid-friendly events. None of the people knew of or consented to being recorded, he said.

The footage took more than three months to review, McGuire said.

“There’s so many of these victims,” McGuire said.

The hearing is scheduled to resume Tuesday morning with Porter’s attorney, Steven Rice, cross-examining the officer.

Porter’s mother, Margaret Porter, was vice principal at Old Mission Catholic School in San Luis Obispo. She was fired from her job in August after the District Attorney’s Office filed charges. Margaret Porter issued a written statement claiming that she was not aware of any allegations against her son.

A Tribune investigation revealed that officials had previously been warned of Porter’s suspicious behavior during a custody battle between Porter’s brother and then-sister-in-law. Porter’s former sister-in-law told a San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge that she did not want Porter around her children, alleging in sworn court declarations that she had heard Jason Porter threaten to rape and murder former girlfriends, and that she had witnessed him physically abusing puppies at a family gathering.

Porter remains in custody at San Luis Obispo County Jail in lieu of $7 million bail.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Jason Porter’s parents, Margaret and Lyle Porter, as founders of Old Mission Catholic School.

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