Local deputy charged with possessing child pornography

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Gavel, books and handcuffs on wooden table

A Crockett County Deputy Sheriff is behind bars facing charges of possessing child pornography.

Matthew Berry, age 40, who has been a deputy since May 2017 was present, along with his wife when agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) served him with a search warrant at his home on Hunter Lane in Bells last Wednesday following a multi-jurisdictional investigation of child pornography.       

According to the criminal complaint between May and June 2019, Detective Matthew Barr of the Michigan City Police Department in Michigan City, Indiana was using a law enforcement version of peer-to-peer (P2P) software seeking out individuals sharing child pornography on the network. On May 7, May 9 and June 19 Barr connected to a device, that was later determined to be a laptop he shared with his wife, at Berry’s residence, which was making files, images and/or videos with titles suggestive of child pornography available for download. On these specific days, the file downloads were unsuccessful, which is said to occur when the device disconnects from the Internet.

On June 25, Barr connected to Berry’s device using the same software and was able to successfully download three images and video files indicative of child pornography. The complaint states all of the videos were of young girls that “appear to be a real child” performing various sexual acts.

During the execution of the search warrant, Berry agreed to speak with investigators. He stated that he had been viewing child pornography for a “long time.” Berry explained that when home alone he would obtain the images, view them then delete them, but said he was not aware the images were available for others to download from his computer.   

If convicted the penalties for possessing child pornography according to the complaint are “no more than 10 years, but if the minor depicted is under the age of 12, then no more than 20 years, no more than $250,000 fine, or both, plus a period of supervised release for any term of years no less than five years or life, together with a mandatory special assessment of $100; a mandatory special assessment of $5,000 and an assessment per count not more than $17,000, mandatory restitution for any conviction is no less than $3,000 per victim and registration as a sex offender under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).” 

Berry made his first court appearance before Magistrate Jon A. York in The United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee for a detention hearing on Sept. 20. 

The prosecuting attorney, Debra Ireland, called two witnesses to the stand including Investigator Dennis Mitchell-an investigator with the Milan Police Department and officer with the Memphis Child Exploitation Task Force. Mitchell spoke with Berry’s wife during the execution of the search warrant where she admitted “he had contemplated suicide in the past.” During the course of the investigation, agents learned Berry also had a long-term girlfriend of over two years, whose name and whereabouts were not released at the hearing. Berry had admitted to his girlfriend that he had thought of “taking the life of his family [wife and three young children] and himself.”  

Investigator Joseph Evans with the Crockett County Sheriff’s Department, was the second prosecution witness called to testify. Evans inventoried Berry’s vehicle to ensure all property issued to Berry during his employment was recovered.  During this process a brown evidence package was found in the passenger side floorboard. The package contained gloves, a black zipper case, digital scales white a white substance and 5.8 grams of a substance that field tested positive for methamphetamines. The Crockett County Sheriff’s Department is currently reviewing all of Berry’s cases to ensure that all evidence noted as collected is accounted for.

Berry’s attorney, Jawna Griffin, called Berry’s father Omer Berry to the witness stand, while the defendant began to sob . Omer stated his son is “a good father, a loving father and he is completely shocked at what is going on right now.” Omer was joined in court by his wife and his daughter in law’s parents, whom according to Omer are “all very supportive of Berry during this time.” Omer has spoke with his daughter-in-law, whom he confirmed is also supporting her husband during this. When Omer was asked if he was aware of Berry’s double life, he said he was unaware of the suicidal thought, secret girlfriend or the addiction to child pornography. 

The judge has ordered Berry to remain in federal custody until the resolution of this case. 

According to Crockett County Sheriff Troy Klyce Berry has been officially terminated after internal investigation was completed. “Our office will continue to apply the law equally and fairly across the board” said Klyce. “This applies to employees and officers as with everyone else.  We are accustomed to riding out the highs and the lows while continuing to do our jobs.  At the end of the day this must continue no matter what happens. We are saddened and ask for prayers for the family.”  In addition to serving as a sheriff’s deputy Berry is also involved with the local Boy Scout troop. Previously, Berry has worked for the Lauderdale Countty Sheriff’s Department, the Brownsville Police Department, Hardeman County Corrections and the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

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