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Youth minister denied bond in child porn case, judge cites risk to community

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By The Staff

SANTA FE (AP) ee* A federal magistrate has denied bond for a Los Alamos youth minister charged in a child pornography case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Charlyn Rees said the judge found during Friday’s hearing that 58-year-old Matthew Nichols is a danger to the community and should not be released.

Federal agents arrested Nichols Wednesday on an indictment charging him with possessing, receiving, distributing and attempting to distribute child pornography.

Nichols has been on paid leave from the Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church since January. His lawyer didn’t return calls after the hearing, and a woman who answered a telephone listed for Nichols declined to comment.

Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) searched the pastor’s home and the church Dec. 29, confiscating four computers, hard drives and CDs believed to contain child pornography.

The indictment says Nichols was convicted of corruption of minors and criminal solicitation to commit involuntary deviate sexual intercourse in Dauphin County, Pa., in 1980.

ICE said in a news release that Nichols previously was employed as a science teacher and coach at a middle school in Espanola and as a teacher at a high school in Munhall, Pa., near Pittsburgh.

Nichols has been youth and family director at the Los Alamos church since 2003.

No one responded to messages left at the church, but Jerry Ethridge, president of its board of directors, said in a videotaped interview posted on the Los Alamos Monitor Web site that Nichols will remain on paid leave until the matter is resolved. To view the video and read the original story click here.

“Matt is a very well-performing employee of the congregation,” he said. “All indications from both parents and all the children (are) that during that period of time, there’s been no ... inappropriate action by Matt.”

ICE said it began investigating Nichols in October 2009 after receiving information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Officials said the tip originated with America Online and that an e-mail address used to transmit child pornography was traced to the Los Alamos church and Nichols’ home.