Attorney general: Aiken child porn incident is big case

Ronald Gardner (WRDW-TV)

Ronald Gardner (WRDW-TV)

News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, July 3, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- In an Aiken home along Emerald Ridge is a man charged with 22 counts of child pornography.

"Everybody, if you see us walking streets and we stop and talk, it always comes up in a conversation," said neighbor Johnny Morris, who admits most of the neighbors along the street have been on high alert since they first learned of the arrest in June.

Morris says it's normally a quiet neighborhood full of children.

"I was talking to a family last night, and they make sure their children stay away from the house because he has decorated for Halloween and Christmas and even has a haunted house on Halloween," he said of the suspect.

In June, Ronald Gardner was arrested for child pornography. But on Wednesday, the South Carolina Attorney General's Office released new details. Gardner is charged with two counts of child porn possession and two counts of distribution to an undercover officer. Neighbors and other sources tell News 12 that Gardner was recently bonded out on a $220,000 surety bond.

"One of our neighbors wanted to move, but like I told her, you know he's here, so you can be aware," Morris said.

Capt. Eric Abdullah with the Aiken County Sheriff's Office says Gardner did not have a personal connection to or contact with any of the children in the photos.

Investigators executed a search of his home before issuing arrest warrants. The investigation began in April.

"Kudos to the Aiken County Sheriff's Office," said Attorney General Alan Wilson. "I just want to give a shout-out to them for the hard work that they've done, and you know, the office will take whatever byproduct they create by catching the predator, and we will prosecute that."

Attorney General Wilson is preparing to do just that. He couldn't say much about the specific case, but he did say this case is a big one. Even though the Aiken County Sheriff's Office says the suspect didn't take the pictures and had no contact with the children in them, Wilson says it's still a crime.

"Most people think of it as a victimless crime. 'I'm not hurting anyone by storing a video.' 'I'm not hurting anyone by storing a photo on my computer.' And I say to that: wrong," Wilson said.

The attorney general says that a victim, whether local or not, still exists and is violated each time a picture is viewed or distributed.

According to neighbors and the suspect's Facebook page, he once worked as a New Jersey correctional officer. News 12 reached out to Gardner for comment but never heard back.

Attorney General Wilson says to contract law enforcement if you expect someone is distributing or in possession of child pornography.


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