Man accused of online trading in child porn

Rankins

Law enforcement arrested an Altamont man Friday night on child pornography and sexual exploitation charges.

Michael E. Rankins, 46, is charged in Labette County District Court with three off-grid felonies and five mid-range felonies. The off-grid felonies can be punished by life in prison upon conviction and a defendant must serve a minimum of 25 years in prison before being eligible for parole. On the mid-range felonies, the minimum prison term is less than three years upon conviction.

The complaint alleges three counts of internet trading in child pornography, all off-grid felonies. A fourth count of internet trading is listed as a level five felony, as are five counts of sexual exploitation of a child. The complaint alleges the incidents happened between Feb. 12 and June 1.

Judge Steve Stockard read the charges to Rankins via the Zoom online meeting platform on Monday and scheduled a status hearing for Nov. 12. Rankins was jailed.

Labette County Attorney Stephen Jones asked for a $500,000 bond, citing the serious nature of the charges. He asked that Rankins not have internet or social media access if he’s freed on bond and no contact with anyone under age 18. He also asked for a waiver of extradition. If Rankins agrees to that and he leaves the state, the Labette County sheriff can pick him up without waiting on an extradition hearing.

Rankins’ attorney, Edward Battitori, said he didn’t object to bond conditions but asked for a lower bond. Rankins lives with his parents in Altamont and worked for a school district in maintenance until he learned of this case and resigned from the school. 

Jones said he was concerned about Rankins returning to his parents’ home because that is where the alleged offenses occurred. Putting Rankins back into that same situation is not idea, Jones said.

Stockard said the charges are serious and he cannot run the risk of Rankins reoffending if released. He said it’s so easy to access the internet these days on a smart phone. “I just can’t permit that to happen.”

The judge then asked if Rankins had a way to make bond. Battitori said he did not. He was in dire financial straits and is doing odd jobs to make money.

Stockard set Rankins’ bond at $300,000 and ordered no access to social media, a cell phone or a computer. He was not allowed to have contact with anyone under age 18 and was to turn in his passport if he had one. He would be on bond supervision if released from jail and is to undergo random drug testing.

The judge said he would entertain a future motion to reduce bond but it had to be “highly detailed” to allay his fears.

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