An Austin man arrested on accusations that he recorded a live Internet feed of a 5-year-old girl being sexually assaulted last year first came to the attention of federal authorities during a 2004 and 2005 child pornography investigation.
Robert J. Ramos Jr., 32, briefly worked in public schools, including most recently as an assistant band director at Dessau Middle School in the Pflugerville district, since that earlier investigation.
Ramos was not charged in the earlier case, but an American-Statesman review of court documents and interviews with the defense lawyers who represented Ramos' former roommate at the time raise questions about the aggressiveness of the prior investigation.
Ramos, who also stands accused of soliciting underage girls to send him naked photographs of themselves, could be sentenced to decades in prison if convicted of the current child pornography charges.
On Wednesday, an FBI agent laid out the new allegations against Ramos in court as his lawyer argued that he should be released from jail pending trial. A U.S. magistrate judge said he would rule on that request today .
In June 2004, Ramos was living with two roommates on Scenic Brook Drive in Southwest Austin when the FBI executed a search warrant on the house, according to court documents.
Before the search, agents learned that someone using a Yahoo account registered to "Mr. Rob Ram" had transmitted child pornography online via a webcam, according to the court documents.
Authorities tracked the Internet Protocol address linked to the child pornography to an account registered to Ramos' roommate, Javier Perez, at the Scenic Brook house.
Perez and Ramos' third roommate, Edwin Atterberry, testified during a 2005 hearing that when FBI Special Agent Robert Britt arrived at the house to execute a search warrant, Atterberry told the agent that Robert Ramos also lived in the house along with Perez.
Britt testified at the hearing that it had not been until later in the investigation that one of Perez's roommates was named Robert Ramos.
While at the Scenic Brook house, authorities did not search Ramos' room, according to the testimony. Perez directed them to the garage, where authorities seized thousands of CDs, some of which contained child pornography, court documents said.
Perez eventually pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced to 57 months in prison. Authorities never returned to search Ramos' room, according to court documents. It is unclear if he was questioned by authorities.
Before Perez pleaded guilty, his lawyers Joe Turner and Chris Perri sought to suppress the search of his house, arguing that simply linking his account's IP address — and not him — to illegal activity did not give officials the authority to search the house.
Turner recalled in an interview Wednesday that while fighting the case, he and Perri secured a sworn statement from Ramos in a failed attempt to convince prosecutors that Ramos was the real perpetrator of the online child pornography transmissions.
In that statement, Ramos admitted that the name "Rob Ram" is short for Robert Ramos but stopped short of admitting he transmitted child pornography online, Turner said.
"They had no interest in looking at Ramos," Turner said. "I suppose they did not want to interfere in their investigation into Perez. But maybe both of them were responsible.
"And now we find out Ramos was in the middle of this (the new investigation). As a result of them not doing anything to follow up on the (previous) allegations, look what happened."
Asked why Ramos was not pursued during the Perez prosecution, U.S. attorney's office spokesman Daryl Fields said, "During that time, there was no evidence recovered that would allow us to prosecute Ramos for any federal violations."
At Wednesday's hearing, FBI Special Agent Jacob Baillie testified that Ramos came to the attention of the FBI again last year, when his name surfaced during the prosecution of Buffalo, N.Y., teacher Tim Bek, who created fictitious Facebook accounts in an attempt to entice minors into sending him naked pictures of themselves.
Bek and Ramos had met in a chat room of a sexually explicit website and later corresponded about creating fake Facebook profiles to lure underage users, Baillie said. At one point, Bek had sent Ramos a list of his students' names and their Facebook profiles so Ramos, who had been posing as a teenage girl in online profiles, would solicit the students' naked pictures, Baillie said.
In November, investigators got a warrant to search Ramos' home on U.S. 290 East, where they seized his computers, Baillie said.
During an interview, Ramos said that he had posted in an online chat room devoted to teachers fantasizing about having sex with their students, Baillie said.
While investigators were reviewing the material on Ramos' computer, they noticed a Facebook chat mentioning Jennifer Mahoney, a New Jersey woman who is charged with streaming live online her sexual assault of a 5-year-old, Baillie said.
Baillie said he passed that information to agents in the Northeast, who searched Mahoney's home. She later confessed to assaulting the girl.
Video of those assaults was later found on Ramos' computer, Baillie said.
Ramos worked at Dessau Middle School from August until November, when he resigned, a district spokeswoman said.