AUGUSTA — Convicted sex offender Robert L. Robinson III — the Augusta man whose internet postings of thousands of photographs of young girls he apparently took in public places in central Maine outraged area parents and prompted a state law change — pleaded not guilty Tuesday to three counts of possession of sexually explicit material depicting a child under the age of 12.

Those charges, however, aren’t the result of the photographs authorities say were taken without the subjects’ knowledge and posted on the internet; they stem from alleged child pornography images found after police searched his Northern Avenue apartment, and seized computers and related equipment. Robinson was arrested in September 2018 on three counts of possession of sexually explicit material of a minor under 12.

Wearing a green jail uniform, Robinson answered “not guilty” when asked for his plea by Superior Court Justice Robert Mullen, to all three counts.

Augusta police, according to an affidavit filed by Sgt. Jesse Brann, learned from Maine Computer Crimes Task Force analysts, who analyzed 100,000 photos on Robinson’s computers, they had found “a few images of what would be considered child pornography.” Some images from Robinson’s computer — some digitally altered and some not — showed children “approximately four to six years old” in sexually explicit scenarios, Brann wrote.

Robinson, Brann wrote, told officers that “he was stupid and believed nights when he was intoxicated by alcohol and narcotics that he looked up websites he shouldn’t have.” These websites, Robinson explained, are hosted on the “dark web” and included chat groups that talk about pedophilia.

Mullen speculated the case probably won’t be ready for trial until April. A dispositional conference on the case has been scheduled for March 12.

Robinson, 35, his sparse hair cut short, answered “no” in a clear voice when asked by Mullen if he had any questions. His attorney, Robert Ruffner, said his client understood the complaint made against him.

Robinson is a lifetime registrant on the sex offender registry. He was sentenced in 2006 to serve an initial six months in prison, with the remainder of the five-year sentence suspended, and four years probation, on three counts of engaging in a sexual act with another person who had not attained the age of 14 years, according to the Maine Sex Offender Registry. Those convictions prohibit Robinson from “intentionally or knowingly initiating direct or indirect contact” with children under 14, the arrest affidavit read.

In January 2018, Augusta police received an onslaught of complaints from central Maine parents who found that photographs of their children had been taken while they were out shopping or taking part in other activities in public places in the area. Police investigated but said that Robinson taking photographs of people in public was not a crime.

It did spur the Legislature, prompted by outraged parents who discovered photos of their children on social media pages, to draft a bill to try to curb behavior similar to Robinson’s. A law evolving from the bill was enacted on April 2, 2018, to protect children under 14 from being photographed without their parents’ permission by people who have committed crimes against children.

The law differs significantly from the bill introduced in the Legislature by Sen. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, who then was a state representative, which began as “An Act To Establish as a Class D Crime the Intentional Photographing of a Minor without Consent of the Minor’s Parent or Guardian by an Individual Required To Register as a Sex Offender.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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