Plea bargain possible in porn case

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By SCOTT PESZNECKER

A former Sierra Conservation Center prison guard who faces an array of child pornography and sex charges might make a plea bargain just days before his Calaveras County trial is set to begin.

Neil Alden Leash, 46, through his lawyer, yesterday asked Calaveras County Superior Court Judge John Martin to delay his scheduled Sept. 24 trial.

Martin said he will decide Friday whether to push back the trial.

After the hearing, Calaveras County Public Defender LeRoy Falk said Leash might enter a plea bargain Friday.

Leash faces 95 counts of sexual abuse in Calaveras County along with 12 federal child pornography charges.

In July, Leash pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity after previously pleading not guilty.

Falk's motion to move the trial date, filed Sept. 11, says the defense isn't ready for trial because psychological reports on Leash are still pending.

Falk also said federal prosecutors are withholding evidence he needs to defend Leash. He also wants to overturn the search warrant investigators used to collect evidence against Leash.

Among other items, investigators found 18 video tapes of Leash involved sexually with young girls.

"Our defense is concerned that the tapes' admission will be unduly prejudicial to Mr. Leash's fair-trial rights," the defense's motion says.

A written rebuttal filed the next day by Calaveras County Deputy District Attorney Daniel McConnell urges against moving the trial date.

The defense has had plenty of time to build its case, he said.

"The defendant has not used due diligence or all reasonable efforts to prepare for trial such that he can now claim good cause exists for a continuation," McConnell said.

Leash was arrested Sept. 17, 2002, after Calaveras County sheriff's investigators with a search warrant found images of child and adult pornography on Leash's home computer and on 10 videotapes.

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