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story.lead_photo.caption Aaron Lloyd Mitchell. Submitted photo

A man facing charges of child pornography production has been ordered by a federal judge in Texarkana to undergo a psychological evaluation.

Aaron Lloyd Mitchell, 21, is accused of uploading to the internet images of himself sexually abusing girls, ages 5 and 13, according to a federal indictment pending in the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas. Mitchell pleaded not guilty to each of three charges listed in the indictment at a hearing in Texarkana last month.

The case was set for trial Jan. 30, but that setting has been put on hold while Mitchell's competency is evaluated.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Matt Hill filed a motion this week asking the court to grant a motion for a psychological assessment. The motion states that Hill is concerned that Mitchell may be suffering from mental health issues that render him incompetent "to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense."

"The Defendant has a history of suicidal thoughts and ideation, depression, and anxiety, for several years up to and including the time of arrest for the instant offense. Defendant's interactions with counsel indicate the possibility of a mental illness or defect, as well as profound depression, such that his responses cause counsel to be uncertain of his understanding of the proceedings against him or his ability to assist properly in his defense of this matter," the motion states.

U.S. District Judge Susan Hickey granted the motion Wednesday. The motion notes that once the examination has been completed the court will conduct a competency hearing to determine whether the case should proceed.

Mitchell allegedly took a picture of himself in a state of arousal with the sleeping 13-year-old in the image, according to the indictment. The first two counts of the indictment allege Mitchell created images involving the 5-year-old while he sexually abused the girl.

All of the images were allegedly created Sept. 1 through Nov. 3 on property in Foreman, Ark., where Mitchell was living with the mother of the younger girl. The 13-year-old is the daughter of a friend of the 5-year-old's mother, according to a criminal complaint filed at the time of Mitchell's arrest last month.

Mitchell has been in jail since his arrest Nov. 21 following an investigation by the FBI and in conjunction with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The images, which ultimately led to Mitchell's arrest, were first brought to the attention of NCMEC through an anonymous posting to its online tip line Nov. 3. The tip identified six photos associated with a user name on the social media and blogging site Tumblr, which appeared to be images depicting the sexual abuse of children. The tip included a warning that the individual posting the images "may be currently molesting 5-yearold and 13-year-old and posting pics."

NCMEC received a second tip Nov. 5 from a Tumblr representative that included images identical to those received in the Nov. 3 tip. NCMEC was able to conduct an analysis of some of the images, which identified the location where they were created on an iPhone 7 Plus, and provided a report Nov. 19 detailing the findings to the FBI. The following day, NCMEC and the FBI Violent Crimes Against Children Intelligence Unit contacted the FBI's Texarkana office with the information.

Agents in Little Rock used the location information extracted from the photos to identify a residence in Foreman at which the images were likely created. Texarkana FBI agents went to the property Nov. 21 and learned from their investigation that Mitchell was living on the property. Mitchell was contacted by a nearby resident cooperating with the FBI and asked to come outside. When Mitchell walked out of the residence, he was allegedly "manipulating a cell phone in his hands."

Mitchell allegedly admitted to taking the photos inside the residence of the 5- and-13-year-old girls depicted in the photographs at the center of the investigation.

"Mitchell further admitted to posting the photos of the females on Tumblr," a federal complaint states. "Mitchell stated he had taken the photos through the SnapChat application, and then saved them to the camera roll on Mitchell's phone, but he believed he had deleted most of them."

Mitchell allegedly admitted to deleting the Tumblr app from his phone while FBI agents were standing outside the Foreman residence. Mitchell's alleged Tumblr username contains a phrase alluding to the sexual abuse of children not suitable for publication. Mitchell allegedly told agents that the girls were sleeping when he photographed them.

If convicted, Mitchell faces 15 to 30 years in federal prison. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Wulff is representing the government.

 

llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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