Cop linked to chat about young boys

Documents show talk was explicitly sexual
2011-08-03T00:00:00Z Cop linked to chat about young boysFernanda Echavarri Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 03, 2011 12:00 am  • 

A Tucson police lieutenant on paid leave since June is accused of having sexually explicit conversations about young boys, according to court documents released Monday.

Lt. Rick Hovden has been under investigation by the Pima County Sheriff's Department since November 2010, when an anonymous caller said he made statements in an online private chat about sexual fantasies involving boys between 8 to 10 years old, and that "if the opportunity arose he would take it," a search warrant shows.

Hovden was placed on administrative leave June 29 and remained on paid leave as of Tuesday, according to Tucson police officials.

Detectives from the Sheriff's Department went to the home of the man who made the call and accessed an online gay dating website profile they say belonged to Hovden, the documents show.

On March 30, detectives assumed the online identity of the acquaintance who reported Hovden and began a private chat, according to court documents.

During the chat, detectives - posing as Hovden's acquaintance - told the lieutenant there was a young boy in the house and the conversation about the boy became sexual, according to court documents. There were three similar chats between that chat in March and May 12, according to a search-warrant affidavit.

Detectives matched the screen name, Internet Protocol address, physical address and email to Hovden, court documents show.

The Sheriff's Department served a search warrant at Hovden's home June 29 and seized computers, CDs, cellphones, cameras, cassettes, film and USB drives, the document shows.

Tucson attorney Michael Piccarreta is representing Hovden in the case and said he is "confident that a thorough investigation will show that this was just fantasy Internet chit-chat."

"Although there was some inappropriate talk, no children were involved and no criminal laws were violated," Piccarreta said.

Tucson police will wait until the Sheriff's Department finishes its criminal case to start an internal investigation, said Sgt. Matt Ronstadt, a department spokesman.

Contact reporter Fernanda Echavarri at fechavarri@azstarnet.com, or 573-4224.

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