Computer tech accused of trying to blackmail elderly man over alleged possession of child porn

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A computer technician has been accused of attempted blackmail after he allegedly threatened to expose an elderly man as a pedophile, back in May and June of last year.

On Monday, Richard Harrison, a 43-year-old computer technician, was charged with attempted theft by coercion and failure to report a child being filmed in a sex act, after he allegedly discovered child pornography while working on a computer owned by 79-year-old Richard Rasmussen, of Parkville, Mo. According to court documents, Harrison sent threatening letters to Rasmussen demanding money in exchange for his silence.

"Child pornography is such terrible stuff, that you've got a duty to report that crime," Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd told FOX 4's Megan Dillard on Tuesday.

According to court documents, in May of 2014 Rasmussen filed a report with police after receiving a letter which stated child pornography had been found on his home computer. The letter directed him to send a lump sum of $5,000 and $500 every month to an address which police later traced to a former UPS store location. The letter’s author claimed if the money was not received, he/she would “cause an outrage” among Rasmussen’s neighbors, which would in turn cause them to damage his home and property, along with other “potential acts of violence.”

"To pay him $5,000 up front and then $500 a month, or he was going to expose him to his neighbors," said Zahnd.

According to the probable cause statement, authorities got Harrison’s name by tracing the address mentioned in the letter, which was the same address listed on his Kansas driver’s license. Once detectives obtained Harrison’s photograph, police contacted Rasmussen, who had since received a second letter requesting cash, and asked if he recognized the man in the picture. Rasmussen indicated that the man in the photograph was a computer technician who had previously worked on his home computer. Rasmussen told the detective he had made an offhanded comment regarding pornography on his computer and Harrison then became “very serious and his demeanor and mood changed.”

Prosecutors are currently looking for Harrison, although on Tuesday a man named Jim Gold, who identified himself as Harrison’s former roommate, says they'll have to search pretty far in order to locate him.

“Last I heard, he was on a cross-country trip and was somewhere in Arizona,” said Gold about Harrison.

Gold said although Harrison was good at his job, his mood would change frequently.

Gold said Harrison “would be up one moment and then horribly down and depressed the next.”

“He worked for a few places in town, long-term contracts, taking care of huge computer systems,” said Gold.

Strong technical skills but Gold implied his former roommate was perhaps lacking elsewhere.

“A matter of ethics and integrity there,” said Gold about the current allegations against Harrison.

A few weeks later Rasmussen received a third letter which included a photograph representing a potential notice which would be posted if he failed to send the payments. The notice appeared to be a poster which stated that Rasmussen is a pedophile and included a photo of two young boys who appeared to be nude. Rasmussen also showed the detective another envelope without postage which contained a recent photograph of his residence. A message on the photo read: “You think this is a game? That you at the door? Seems that it is. Send it pervert.”

In August 2014, following a search of Rasmussen's home in which police say he willingly allowed them to search, police recovered 10 3.5" floppy disks containing 286 images of young boys, under the age of 15, engaging in sexual acts with one another, and a laptop from his residence. In October authorities received a report on the examination of the laptop, which revealed 222 additional suspected images of child pornography erotica, 971 images of suspected child pornography, 86 videos of suspected child pornography and evidence of internet history.

On Tuesday, FOX 4 spoke to Rasmussen about what was on his personal computer.

"Child pornography is required to be reported by law," said FOX 4's Megan Dillard.

"Right," responded Rasmussen.

She then asked him if he thought at any point someone would report finding the alleged child pornography on his computer.

"No, well I knew there was some. Some of it I didn't consider child pornography," Rasmussen said.

Last year during an interview with Rasmussen, police said he admitted he “gets bored sitting at his home so he looks at child pornography.” They said Rasmussen stated that he already told investigators there was child pornography on his computer and that he “doesn’t believe anyone should be able to tell him what he can look at.” When asked about his internet history, Rasmussen did not dispute the findings, according to police.

Rasmussen is charged with possession of child pornography and is currently out on bond. His court date, which has been pushed back many times, is set for October 29.

While Rasmussen awaits his court date, he tells FOX 4 he’s glad that Harrison is facing charges also.

“So you were more angered about the fact that someone, in your opinion, violated your privacy than what investigators found on your machine?” FOX 4’s Megan Dillard asked.

“Absolutely correct,” responded Rasmussen.

So far Harrison is not in custody in Platte County.