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Despite concerns he is a potential suicide risk, Jesse Ryan Loskarn, the fired chief of staff for Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, has been ordered released into the custody of his parents and will spend the month or so until his grand jury trial in their Sykesville, Md., home under detention.
The 35-year-old, who wore a short-sleeved orange jumpsuit on Monday during his second appearance in the District’s federal courthouse — just blocks away from the Capitol where he worked for more than a decade — will be confined to house arrest, prohibited from accessing the Internet and have his every move monitored by an ankle bracelet.
A Justice Department attorney argued that releasing Loskarn could be a bad idea. Mi Yung Park, a trial attorney with the agency’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, said Loskarn may be intent on harming himself based on “demeanor and comments he made at the time of arrest,” carried out Dec. 11 by Postal Inspection Service agents who swept his Southeast D.C. home for evidence.
Park said Loskarn, who is facing up to 30 years in prison if convicted on charges of possessing and distributing child pornography, could also be a danger to the community. She reminded the judge that the hundreds of explicit videos allegedly found on his hard drive featured “not just barely legal” 17-year-olds, but also children as young as 6. She also noted that the government has evidence that Loskarn has been active on peer-to-peer file sharing sites for at least three years.
Building a case for his release from jail, defense attorney Pamela Satterfield said Loskarn had no previous criminal record, “strong ties” to the D.C. community where he has lived for 14 years and had done nothing to suggest that he might be contemplating suicide.
“It’s not a concern,” Satterfield said. “It’s simply not a concern for Mr. Loskarn.”
Before making his ruling, Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola asked Loskarn’s parents, Chuck and Laura, who sat side-by-side in the far back corner of the courtroom, about the electronic devices in their home.
Laura Loskarn told the judge that her family has “no desktop PC” and confirmed that all cellphones and the two iPads in the home are password-protected. Chuck Loskarn draped his arm around his wife while the two addressed the judge. They confirmed that Loskarn’s brother, Chaz, and sister-in-law, who both live in the couple’s Maryland home, will help monitor the former Capitol Hill staffer.
Under the terms of what’s being called a “high-intensity supervision” program, Loskarn is being released on his own recognizance but is not allowed to leave his parents’ home except for legal purposes or emergency medical visits. In many jurisdictions around the country, child pornography charges would result in jail detention with a high bond value, according to Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Association.
“This is obviously a very serious and very disturbing allegation: child pornography,” Burns told CQ Roll Call, “but in some jurisdictions, they are so large and overcrowded that it’s usually people charged with murder, people charged with rape, people charged with aggravated robbery,” or other violent crimes that are held in jail until grand jury proceedings.
Burns said it is important to remember that Loskarn is presumed innocent, and that ultimately, discretion is up to the judge.
Having Chuck and Laura Loskarn present to speak on his behalf likely strengthened his case for release, he said.
“Parents may be able to persuade a judge ... that he’s going to be more of a danger to himself in a jail cell than he would be in our own home,” he said. The prohibition on Internet use helps diminish his danger to others by ensuring he can’t access or transmit pornographic material.
Following the 20-minute hearing, Loskarn’s parents left the courtroom with Stuart Sears, one of the attorneys defending their son, and said they had no comment for reporters.
“Happy holidays,” Chuck Loskarn said. As they approached the exit he turned back, to add: “I do have one comment — it’s tragic. That’s about it.”
Loskarn remained in custody at the D.C. jail on Monday afternoon, pending release. A date for the grand jury trial has not yet been established, but it will likely be set for January.
Alexander had no comment on the most recent development in the case of his former chief of staff, but he has called the alleged crimes “repugnant and disturbing.”