Former Macomb County official pleads no contest to child porn charges

By: Sarah Wojcik, | Shelby - Utica News | Published May 16, 2017

On May 16, a former Macomb County official pleaded no contest to 76 counts of possession of child sexually abusive material and one count of using a computer to commit a crime. He also pleaded guilty to one count of marijuana possession.

Philip Frame, a Shelby Township resident and former director of the Macomb County Public Affairs Office, is due back before Judge Edward Servitto at the Macomb County Circuit Court for sentencing July 18.

By entering pleas on each count, Frame waived his right to a trial. Servitto looked at each photograph corresponding to all 76 counts of child sexually abusive material as he accepted each plea.

 Judge Edward Servitto presides over the case of Shelby Township resident and former Macomb County official Philip Frame May 16. Frame pleaded no contest to 76 counts of possession of child sexually abusive material May 16 and will be sentenced July 18.

Judge Edward Servitto presides over the case of Shelby Township resident and former Macomb County official Philip Frame May 16. Frame pleaded no contest to 76 counts of possession of child sexually abusive material May 16 and will be sentenced July 18.

Photo by Deb Jacques

“Clearly, these photos — it’s unbelievable, but it is absolutely sexually abusive material of a child,” Servitto said. “That was one of the most disturbing proceedings this court has experienced.”

Possession of child sexually abusive material carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. Using a computer to commit a crime carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. Possession of marijuana carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and/or an $18,000 fine.

Servitto agreed to sentence Frame on the count of marijuana possession under section 7411 of the Public Health Code, which provides for the dismissal of a first-time drug offense once the defendant successfully completes a period of probation and any other requirements imposed by the judge.

Stephen Rabaut, Frame’s defense attorney, said his client pleaded no contest to all of the computer-related crimes because there is a potential for civil liability.

During Frame’s preliminary examination July 6, 2016, Rabaut argued that the prosecution could not establish who was utilizing Frame’s laptop.

He also argued that the images were not in his client’s “possession” because the images that investigators located on the hard drive were linked files that had been viewed on the computer, but never saved or downloaded.

“There is possession. The statute does provide access to that information, and once it is brought up and viewed, it is at that moment possessed, so under either criteria under the statute, the court is satisfied,” Servitto said May 16.

On July 6, 41-A District Court Judge Douglas Shepherd bound over 76 of 78 counts of possession of child sexually abusive material after a brief recess to review the prosecution’s exhibits. He said it was impossible to determine if the individuals in two of the images were minors.

On July 6, Daniel Cikota, a former computer forensic examiner with the Macomb Area Computer Enforcement unit, testified that he found 96 suspected images of child sexually abusive material in the cache memory of Frame’s laptop.

On July 6, MACE Detective Aaron Hurley testified that the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children tipped off the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office in December 2015 that pornographic images of children had been linked to an IP address registered to Frame’s condo, near 26 Mile and Mound roads. He said Frame was the sole resident of the condo.

On Jan. 1, 2016, MACE detectives executed a search warrant at Frame’s home and arrested him. On Jan. 2, he posted his $10,000 cash-or-surety bond and was released from the Macomb County Jail.

Hurley said that Frame told him that the Department of Homeland Security also raided the condo in October 2015 after an investigation into child pornography and took all of his electronic devices, but Frame had since procured another laptop.

Khaalid Walls, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, previously said that following the investigation by ICE Homeland Security Investigations, Frame was charged by federal complaint Feb. 25, 2016, with possession, receipt and distribution of child pornography.

Rabaut also represents Frame on the federal case.

Servitto said the Macomb County Circuit Court would refer the matter to the probation department for a pre-sentence report and recommendation.

“There is a corresponding federal case pending that is close to conclusion. I’m sure the personnel at the probation department will want to confer with those persons in the federal court,” Servitto said.

He also noted that the federal court was supervising Frame and ensuring that he met his bond conditions.

Rabaut declined to comment for this story.