A Tuolumne County Superior Court judge ruled Friday morning following a one-hour preliminary hearing that a Sonora man accused of possession of more than 50 images of child pornography must stand trial.

Curtis Keefe Leonard, 37, clasped his hands tightly in front of him as Sonora Police Officer Scott Mallon testified that multiple images featuring prepubescent teen girls engaged in sex acts had been extracted from a home computer and a laptop owned by Leonard.

Leonard appeared to swallow as Mallon detailed a conversation he had with Leonard on the day of his arrest, March 13, 2017.

“He knew what was on the computer,” Mallon said, referring to the devices that had been previously provided to the police department by Leonard’s estranged wife. “He knew that it contained child pornography.”

During his testimony, Mallon described three specific images that were found on the devices following a forensic digital analysis of the laptop and home computer. A total of 55 images were located, with some identifying dates that the images were accessed.

The analysis found evidence of website access to kids chatroom sites and one specifically identified as “preteen posing dot com,” by a user identified as “curtdog98.”

A 2011 Google search for “preteen nude videos” was also uncovered on the devices, Mallon said.

Deputy District Attorney Eric Hovatter inquired to Mallon about the development of the investigation, and how Leonard’s estranged wife provided the first report to the Sonora Police Department about Leonard’s possession of child pornography.

She had left her husband and returned to live in the home on multiple occasions throughout 2015 and early 2016, Mallon said. But in March 2016, she left for the last time. She contacted the Sonora Police Department in August 2016 to report child pornography, Mallon testified.

“She had had enough at that point and had separated because she continually found images at her home,” Mallon said.

She brought the laptop and computer to Mallon during a follow-up interview at the Sonora Police Department before the devices were sent to state facility for the digital forensic analysis, Mallon said.

Mallon could not recall the name of the facility or the title of the technician who had provided him with the device’s reports, which were issued to him on two separate discs, he said.

Previously, Sonora Police Department Interim Chief Turu VanderWiel said the devices would be sent to a state Department of Justice facility.

Leonard’s defense attorney, Kirk McAllister of Modesto focused on the search warrant for Leonard’s Jackson Street residence on the day of his arrest.

At first Mallon had difficulty recalling the chronology that had led up to Leonard’s arrest, but noted later to McAllister that he had not read the suspect his Miranda rights prior to his questioning of the subject before the arrest.

During the conversation, Mallon said, Leonard would have been free to leave the scene, and his Miranda rights were read to him prior to the arrest.

“He said that he downloaded things he shouldn’t have,” Mallon said.

McAllister asserted whether Leonard’s estranged wife may have been holding onto the child pornography information as “leverage” in a pending child custody or divorce proceeding because she reportedly left for the last time in March 2016 before handing over the evidence to the police in August 2016.

Leonard is charged with felony possession of child pornography.

An arraignment on the information was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 30 in Department 1.

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or gricapito@uniondemocrat.com . Follow him on Twitter @gsepinsonora.