A Dickinson man has pleaded not guilty to promoting or directing an obscene performance by a minor, a Class A felony.
Alvin Keller, 58, appeared before Judge Rhonda Ehlis in Stark County District Court Monday for a preliminary hearing.
Keller was charged in October with taking nude photos of a 5-year-old family member.
A series of photos taken in his home of the child were found on his tablet by his wife, who reported it to local law enforcement. The photos depicted prominently showed the child's genitalia and chest.
Keller said he only took the photos to show that the child had been misbehaving that day.
Dickinson Police Department Detective Samantha Okke, who is trained in child pornography investigation, testified Monday about the case.
The pictures had been deleted, but the wife had used her phone to capture an image of the photo gallery on Keller's tablet, Okke testified.
Okke stated that it was her expert opinion on the matter that the photos were child pornography.
"Some of these images do depict, and are commonly found among, child pornography images that I see as part of my job," she said. "They're not photographs I see on a normal basis taken by individuals."
It is unknown if Keller distributed the photos in any way.
Among the definitions of "promoting" obscene materials is manufacturing, which Keller allegedly did by taking the photos, Assistant State's Attorney Amanda Engelstad said.
Keller's attorney, Diane Melbye, of Melbye Law Office in Dickinson, argued there is no evidence that the child was "directed" in any manner to give a "performance."
"We have indication of nudity, but we don't have any indication of sexual contact or conduct by a person," she said. "She was possibly just being a naughty little girl and not getting dressed like she was supposed to."
Ehlis determined that there was enough evidence to support the charge.
"I can't imagine why a picture of a 5-year-old child's (genitals) could be for anything but sexual stimulation," she said. "It certainly isn't a picture you put in your photo album and show your relatives when they come over for coffee."
In North Dakota, a Class A felony carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail and/or a $20,000 fine, and minimum fines totaling $1,025.
Bond was set in October at $150,000 cash.
A pretrial conference and trial date have not been scheduled yet.