AUFDENBERGMAXIMILLIAN

Maximillian Aufdenberg

WINCHESTER — The legal fate of a Stephens City man rests on a computer forensics examination.

On Sept. 10, child pornography possession and distribution charges were dropped against Maximillian Kyle Aufdenberg about 3½ years after the investigation of him began. Police said images, including bestiality and nude, prepubescent girls, were traced in February 2018 to an IP address belonging to Aufdenberg. On March 30, 2018, police raided Aufdenberg's home in the 200 block of Shoe Buckle Court and seized multiple computers, hard drives, thumb drives and phones. The 42-year-old Aufdenberg was arrested in February 2019 and his case was scheduled for trial last month. 

The charges were withdrawn pending more computer analysis, according to Andrew M. Robbins, Frederick County deputy commonwealth's attorney. He said on Monday that laboratory analysis will decide whether the charges will be reinstated.

Defense attorney William August "Beau" Bassler said he believes his client is innocent. The seized computers were "hand-me-down" computers given to Aufdenberg and he was using them to mine bitcoin, according to Bassler.

Bitcoin is online currency with transactions run by a decentralized international network of computers. Mining bitcoin involves competitive, high-speed creation of the currency through computer algorithms. 

Bassler said about 50 computers or electronics are being analyzed. He wouldn't say where Aufdenberg got the computers, but he said at least one of them contained child porn from 2010. The images had been deleted, but police were able to resurrect them. Had the case gone to trial, Bassler said Aufdenberg's defense would've been that the images were downloaded before he acquired the computers.

"They were actually computers that were more or less mothballed and hadn't been used in a long, long time,"  Bassler said. "He didn't know what was on the computers."

Robbins said he's hopeful the analysis will determine whether to recharge Aufdenberg. He expressed skepticism about Aufdenberg's bitcoin mining claim.

"All that says to me is that he is very computer savvy. Which kind of cuts against the grain when he talks about, 'Oh yeah, but I got duped by these computers that have pornography on them,'" Robbins said. "You're brilliant enough to mine bitcoin, but you don't know what's on your own hard drive." 

Bassler also sought to suppress evidence against Aufdenberg. In a motion filed last month, he said police recordings from the raid show Aufdenberg repeatedly asked for a lawyer and wasn't read his Miranda warning against self-incrimination. On the recordings, Bassler said investigators are "relentlessly accusing" Aufdenberg of possessing the porn while he is "consistently denying" their allegations. 

"There is no question that Aufdenberg was detained and placed in custody for Miranda purposes. He witnessed the front door of his house being kicked in and items [being] seized," Bassler wrote. "The police pointed guns at him and his children and ordered them at gunpoint to move from the second to the first floor. The police had complete control of the scene at his house."

— Contact Evan Goodenow at egoodenow@winchesterstar.com

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