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Former Lake Forest Planning Commissioner Accused of Possessing, Distributing Child Porn

Jerry J. Zechmeister, 61, of Lake Forest, was taken into custody by investigators from the Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force Thursday.

Jerry Zechmeister, former chairman of the Lake Forest Planning Commission. Patch photo credit: Martin Henderson
Jerry Zechmeister, former chairman of the Lake Forest Planning Commission. Patch photo credit: Martin Henderson

A joint press release from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Newport Beach Police Department:

A former planning commissioner for the city of Lake Forest was arrested Thursday on suspicion of possessing and distributing child pornography using file-sharing networks on his personal computer.

Jerry J. Zechmeister, 61, of Lake Forest, was taken into custody by investigators from the Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force (OCCETF), including special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and detectives from the Newport Beach Police Department.

Investigators executed a search warrant at Zechmeister’s residence in October 2013, seizing three computers and two external hard drives. A forensic review of the electronic devices uncovered approximately 160 videos containing child pornography. By examining the dates when the files were created, last written and accessed, investigators believe the defendant had been accessing and sharing the child exploitation images for close to seven years.

The matter has been referred to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.  Zechmeister’s arraignment is scheduled for July 31, 8:30 a.m., at the Newport Beach Harbor Justice Center.

“Each time an image of child pornography is viewed, that child is victimized again,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “HSI will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to ensure that those who harm children in this way – no matter their position – receive the justice they deserve.”

“Child exploitation is a crime without regard for geographical boundaries,” said Captain Dale Johnson, Detective Division Commander for the Newport Beach Police Department. “Groups like the OCCETF allow personnel from multiple law enforcement agencies to work together to protect children in our local communities, and worldwide. The Newport Beach Police Department is honored to join other dedicated investigators throughout the country in a united goal to identify, investigate, and arrest child predators.”

The OCCETF is a collaborative law enforcement effort to identify, arrest and prosecute those involved in child sexual exploitation offenses, including child pornographers. The Task Force encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through ICE’s toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a Task Force partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.

jeff s June 24, 2014 at 10:29 AM
Hey brainwashed, here's a clue. Public, I see again public officials should not live a life where they are breaking the law continuously. That alone is grounds for termination. They are held to a higher standard. Perhaps he was in charge of public planning of children's parks, youth centers, an afterschool facilities... A perfect fit right??
Bob Forsberg June 25, 2014 at 12:17 AM
Be more concerned as to the insightful elected leaders who appointed him to a city post and those who endorsed him in the last election cycle.
Lake Forest Citizen Paying Attention June 25, 2014 at 10:07 AM
Mr. Forsberg is correct except for one small tidbit: Jerry Zechmeister wasn't a candidate in the last election, his wife was.
Lake Forest Citizen Paying Attention June 25, 2014 at 10:14 AM
Given the timing of Zechmeister's resignation from the PC and when this article says the warrant was first served on him where his computers were confiscated, I can't help but wonder if Jim Gardner will ever publicly acknowledge that the presence of the newer Commissioners had very little to do with his resignation?
Jim Gardner June 25, 2014 at 11:01 AM
Hi LF CPA. Not having a credential in mind reading I have no idea why he resigned apart from what he said. I recall he specifically mentioned the "newer commissioners" in his resignation letter, but how much this weighed in his decision versus everything else that was happening in his business and personal life, I couldn't say. Certainly his predecessor (Tim Hughes) made it very clear that the "newer commissioners" were a major part of his decision to resign.

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