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Former Fargo firefighter now in Duluth used work computer to store child pornography, investigators say

DULUTH - A Duluth - and former Fargo - firefighter who faces sexual misconduct and child pornography charges allegedly used a computer at a Duluth fire station to distribute pornographic images of a 4-month-old child, according to court documents.

1464311+Caleb Stuart Lofald.jpg
Caleb Stuart Lofald

DULUTH - A Duluth - and former Fargo - firefighter who faces sexual misconduct and child pornography charges allegedly used a computer at a Duluth fire station to distribute pornographic images of a 4-month-old child, according to court documents.

Caleb Stuart Lofald, 32, of Hermantown already is charged with sexually assaulting the infant girl and surreptitiously recording a 6-year-old boy and an adult woman in various stages of undress in a guest room at his home.

But court documents and statements from authorities Friday suggested that he remains under investigation for possible additional charges related to the production, possession and distribution of child pornography.

“These are very serious allegations,” prosecutor Gary Bjorklund said. “The defendant is well aware that these charges are part of a much larger investigation that could be headed toward significant federal charges.”

Judge David Johnson set Lofald’s bail at $250,000 without conditions or $100,000 with conditions at an initial appearance Friday morning in State District Court in Duluth. Conditions of the lower bail would include a screening for intensive supervised release and no unsupervised contact with minors.

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Lofald, lodged at the St. Louis County Jail since Tuesday, appeared in court wearing an orange jumpsuit. A half-dozen supporters, including his wife and father, sat in the courtroom.

Bjorklund, head of the criminal division of the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office, asked for significant bail, citing the serious nature of the alleged crimes and the possibility of additional state or federal charges.

“The state is concerned about the defendant being a flight risk and the well-being of the public,” Bjorklund told the judge.

Superior attorney Stephen Zuber represented Lofald at the hearing.

Zuber described Lofald as a lifelong resident of the Duluth and Hermantown area and said he has strong ties to the community. He said Lofald has been supported by family and has had numerous supervised visits with his own 3½-year-old son since the investigation was launched nearly two months ago.

“The search warrant in this case was executed on Nov. 20,” Zuber said. “The defendant has been free since that time with no issues.”


Images seized from home, work

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Court documents allege that investigators found numerous photographs and recordings on electronic devices seized from both Lofald’s Hermantown home and the Duluth Fire Department’s Fire Station 7.

The devices allegedly included 11 photographs of a partially nude 4-month-old girl, with several images depicting a hand manipulating the child’s genital area, according to the criminal complaint. The photos allegedly were taken in Lofald’s home in May 2013.

Investigators said that video recordings of a 6-year-old boy and adult female also were retrieved from the electronic devices. The videos were recorded by a hidden camera in a guest room at Lofald’s home on separate days in September 2014, according to the complaint.

Additional court documents allege that Lofald admitted to distributing child pornography from the fire station. Images of the 4-month-old were found on a hard drive seized from the station, according to a probable cause application filed this week by investigator Jeanine Pauly of the Lake Superior Forensic Technology and Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

While the devices were seized in November, the images were not recovered from the hard drive until last week, Pauly said. Lofald remains under investigation for further child pornography charges as a forensic examination of the devices continues, according to the document.

After Friday’s hearing, Bjorklund declined to elaborate on the ongoing investigation.

Zuber also declined to comment, directing comments to Lofald’s primary attorney, Rick Gondik. Gondik, a Superior attorney, did not return a call requesting comment.

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Zuber said during the hearing that Lofald has been a Duluth firefighter for seven years, and previously held the same position in Fargo.

He has been on paid administrative leave since November, but Duluth Mayor Don Ness on Thursday released a statement calling the allegations “beyond heinous” and stating that the city is in the process of firing Lofald.

Noting the nature of the alleged crimes, Bjorklund said he would file a notice of intent to seek a departure from sentencing guidelines should Lofald be found guilty. The most serious charged offense, second-degree criminal sexual conduct, carries a maximum of 25 years in prison.

Lofald’s next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 4.

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