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URBANA — A longtime Boy Scout leader in the Champaign-Urbana area is being held in the Ford County Jail on federal charges alleging that he trafficked in child pornography.

On Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Eric Long ordered that Milton Forsberg, 79, who listed an address in the 800 block of West Charles Street, Champaign, should be held at least until a federal grand jury decides if there is enough evidence to indict him. The grand jury is expected to meet in early November.

According to an affidavit filed in support of Forsberg’s criminal complaint, Champaign police Sgt. Pat Simons, an expert in computer crime investigations, found numerous photos of prepubescent boys on computers and external storage devices taken during a Sept. 27 court-authorized search of Forsberg’s home.

Forsberg, who was arrested Oct. 16, was present during the search by Champaign police and denied any inappropriate contact with boys or sexual attraction to them, Simons said in the affidavit.

Simons said police found printed photos of boys in sexually explicit positions at the foot of Forsberg’s bed that day. He allegedly tried to hide the pictures with his cane when he thought the officers weren’t looking, the affidavit said.

In addition to more than 100 pictures in the home and the images on the computers and thumb drives, police found a darkroom in Forsberg’s basement with photos he admitted he took at a nudist colony.

In U.S. District Court in Urbana on Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly Peirson argued for Forsberg’s detention.

Forsberg is represented by Urbana attorney Steve Beckett, who urged Long not to keep his client locked up because of his advanced age and problems with balance and high blood pressure.

Beckett cited Forsberg’s long-standing ties to the community, where he has served as a Scout leader for more than 30 years. He also worked intermittently as an accountant at the University of Illinois in the College of Fine and Applied Arts between 1985 and 2000, according to UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler.

The email to which some pornographic images were uploaded was a UI address, and Forsberg’s credit card was linked to that address, the affidavit said.

Simons wrote in the affidavit that he was personally familiar with Forsberg as a Scout leader because of their mutual interest in ham radios through a local amateur radio club. Forsberg, the treasurer of the Twin City Amateur Radio Club, helped Scouts obtain radio merit badges and make amateur radio contacts across the nation, Simons said.

“He is a longtime Scout leader considered by many to be one of the best Scout leaders in our community. His troop was renowned for the number of Eagle Scouts it was able to produce,” said Beckett, who called the charges “truly sad.”

Beckett said Forsberg has also helped with emergency support services to victims of fires through the Champaign Fire Department.

Beckett argued to Long that photos from nudist camps are considered constitutionally protected and that there are many settled cases that stand for that proposition.

The affidavit also referred to a letter that Champaign police received in late September from a California attorney who represents a man who alleges he was sexually abused at age 13 by Forsberg in 1965 in Champaign.

Asked by Long if any criminal charge ever resulted from that allegation or if that was merely part of a recently filed class-action suit against the Boy Scouts alleging it covered up suspected pedophiles in its ranks, Peirson said the government did not have that information.

Jared White, Scout executive for the Prairielands Council, issued the following statement Tuesday:

“First and foremost, we care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children. We believe victims, we support them, we pay for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward. It is BSA policy that all incidents of suspected abuse are reported to law enforcement.

“Upon learning of these claims, we took immediate action to involve law enforcement, and while this individual is no longer in Scouting, we barred him from any future participation in our programs.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our youth members. We seek to prevent abuse through comprehensive policies and procedures that serve as barriers to abuse. These include a thorough screening process, including criminal background checks for staff and other adult leaders, requiring two or more adult leaders be present with youth at all times during Scouting activities, and the prompt mandatory reporting of any allegation or suspicion of abuse. The policies that the BSA has in place today are informed and endorsed by child-safety experts.”

Reporter

Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is mschenk@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).