While friends and fellow Republicans stand by Lane Rees, Walton County’s elected state committeeman, a probable cause affidavit released by the Sheriff’s Office indicates authorities had strong evidence to arrest him Monday on child pornography charges.
The affidavit states a video depicting a man having sex with a girl between 4 and 6 years old was captured by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children after it was sent from Rees’ computer to another person.
Further investigation led to the discovery of a zip file Rees received in an email containing “74 graphic images in which most contained child pornography,” according to the affidavit.
Community reaction to Rees' arrest >>
Emails went out from Rees’ computer 6 minutes before and 19 minutes after the zip file was received, the affidavit said. The second was “digitally signed with the name ‘Lane.’”
As a search warrant was being served Monday at his home on Lakeview Drive in Santa Rosa Beach, Rees “admitted to being the only one who had the password to use his email account,” according to the affidavit.
He also admitted to “sending specific emails … within minutes of receiving and sending emails which contained digital media files depicting children engaged in sexually explicit conduct,” the affidavit says.
Rees, who was charged of possessing and transmitting child pornography, was released from the Walton County Jail on Tuesday after posting a $100,000 bond.
Neither he nor his wife Brenda returned phone calls for comment Thursday.
Friends such as Steve Czonstka, Okaloosa County’s Republican state committeeman, were skeptical of early news reports about the arrest and came to Rees’ defense.
“I kind of resent the Daily News running his arrest on the front page of the newspaper. It’s kind of like they’re trying him in the newspaper,” Czonstka said.
“I was surprised and am still trying to take it with a grain of salt,” he said. “You can compare it to the Ray Sansom thing when he was accused (of grand theft). He got tried in the newspaper and eventually the whole thing was dropped.”
State Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, called Rees’ arrest “horrifying” but didn’t cut his fellow Republican any slack.
“It’s horrifying, but it’s a reminder that very creepy people look just like the rest of us,” Gaetz said. “It’s a reminder to keep our guard up.”
Jim Anders, the chairman of the Walton County Republican Executive Committee, said he was “as surprised as everyone else to hear about Lane’s arrest.”
He said he spoke to Brenda Rees and learned she also was shocked to hear the allegations.
Anders said the county’s GOP executive committee will meet April 15. Its members can decide at that time to meet in special session 10 days later to decide whether it will seek to vote Rees off the committee.
A two-thirds vote of the committee is required to remove a member, Anders said.
The Republican Party of Florida also can take action against Rees if it decides to do so, a party official said.
“According to RPOF rules, the executive board has the authority to remove someone from holding a party office. It’s merely a question of if there is a desire to do so,” said the official, who did not want to be identified. “No decision has been made yet.”
State GOP officials meet in Orlando in two weeks.
Rees could also choose to resign, the official said.