Embattled Redlands Planning Commissioner Frasher Resigns

Redlands Planning Commission Chairman Steven Frasher yesterday resigned from the commission, two days after his arrest by the San Bernardino Police Department Tuesday on charges that pornographic images of children were among data contained on his personal cybernetic devices.
There were anomalies pertaining to the case developed against Frasher that have, at press time, been given no explanation.
According to the San Bernardino Police Department, “On 10/03/2023, detectives with the San Bernardino Police Department Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and Specialized Crimes Unit served a residential search warrant in the City of Redlands, referenc[ing] suspected producing, possessing, and disseminating child pornography.”
The police department statement continued, “Internet Crimes Against Children detectives previously received a cyber tip indicating that the suspect, 62-year-old Steven Frasher of Redlands, was downloading illicit child pornography images on the internet and had them saved within an internet storage account. Additionally, the suspect was found to be in possession of numerous images of child sexual abuse material on his electronic devices. The investigation is ongoing, and a forensic examination of the electronic devices will be conducted. The suspect was arrested and booked into a local jail facility, awaiting a court appearance.”The arrest took place at 8 a.m. at the Frasher residence in 1500 block of Hanford Street in Redlands, timed to take place when Frasher’s wife, who works as a kindergarten teacher in the Fontana Unified School District, was not present. Frasher, who is employed by the Los Angeles County Public Works Department, was on the premises.
Frasher was remanded into the custody of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, which placed him in a hold at its Central Detention Center in San Bernardino rather than transporting him to the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga. Within several hours, Frasher was able to arrange for the posting of $30,000 bail and was released.
The Redlands Police Department was not involved in making Frasher’s arrest, although the San Bernardino Police Department did inform its sister agency its officers were going to effectuate his arrest.
Frasher has not been charged by the district attorney’s office with any crime and no court appearance for him has yet been scheduled.
Of note, as was stated in the release by the San Bernardino Police Department, is that Frasher’s arrest a) followed a “tip” that came into the task force; b) was effectuated prior to a forensic audit of his electronic devices; c) came while an investigation into the matter was yet ongoing; and d) while Detective Clint Walton, who is leading the investigation into Frasher, was still actively seeking “anyone with information regarding this incident.”
There was, the Sentinel has learned, a discrepancy between what the Los Angeles Regional Crimes Against Children Task Force was told Frasher was engaged in and the materials and evidence discovered by the detectives with the San Bernardino Police Department Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and Specialized Crimes Unit when the search of Frasher’s Redlands home was carried out. While that search provided a preliminary indication that images featuring children were contained within files on some of those devices, there was nothing turned up to suggest Frasher was producing such materials.
The Los Angeles Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which includes the San Bernardino Police Department as a member, has the technical ability to utilize cybernetic trapdoors or back doors to gain, through the internet, access to a computer or smart device remotely and make an analysis of its contents. That access can be gained without a warrant, but any data or information gleaned from a forensic examination carried out in that way would be inadmissible in a prosecution against the computer or device owner. If that access were to be gained under the auspices of a warrant, any incriminatory information obtained could be used in a prosecution. That methodology would allow investigators to determine not only if such offending material was present among the data recorded on the computer’s hard drive or internally on the device, but how and when it came to be lodged there.
Based on the information released by the San Bernardino Police Department, if a warrantless back door/trapdoor were used prior to his arrest to scout Frasher’s computers and devices that were vulnerable to such a search, it does not appear that any such contraband was detected at that time, although the limitations on available information render such a conclusion uncertain.
The San Bernardino Police Department did not provide the precise basis for the issuance of the arrest and search warrants pertaining to Frasher, his domicile, his computers and his devices. It is possible but unlikely that a judge would issue an arrest and search warrant solely on the basis of an uncorroborated “tip” from an unnamed source.
Though Frasher did resign from the Redlands Planning Commission, there was nothing prior to his decision to do so that suggests Redlands officials had been supplied with any damning information indicating his guilt or that Redlands officials had requested or demanded his resignation.
The absence of a criminal filing by the district attorney’s office might reflect a) that information relating to the matter was not shared with prosecutors in advance of Frasher’s arrest; b) that the information/evidence obtained by the police department failed to establish Frasher’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; and/or c) caution on the part of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, which has been burned in the past on child pornography possession cases it prematurely pursued against local public figures.
In 1999 the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office sought a child pornography possession conviction against Dr. Geoffrey Hill, a civic activist in San Bernardino County’s mountain communities, based on two photographs of an unclothed child in his files. The photograph was subsequently determined to be one taken for legitimate purposes, but not until the action taken against Hill had severely damaged his reputation, resulting in his suicide. The prosecution of Hill on false pretenses contributed to then-District Attorney Dennis Stout being voted out of office in 2002.
In 2009, then-District Attorney Michael Ramos signed off on his office filing child pornography possession charges against San Bernardino County Democratic Central Committee spokesman and finance committee chairman Sam Clauder, based upon images contained within the Clauder household computer that had been downloaded from the internet.
Clauder was arrested by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department on a child pornography possession charge following what turned out to be an inadequate investigation after Clauder’s estranged wife, Lana Pittman, and Clauder’s stepson, Trey Stancher, provided Clauder’s computer to the San Bernardino County Sheriffs Office in Twin Peaks on July 7, 2008. Pittman and Stancher told investigators with the sheriff’s department that Clauder had downloaded the images depicting sex acts involving children contained on the computer’s hard drive, maintaining the computer was password protected and they had no access to it. The sheriff’s department carried out a less-than-exhaustive forensic examination of the computer, confirmed that it indeed contained prohibited photos of sexual activity involving children, and arrested Clauder.
Clauder maintained his innocence from the outset but was fired by Congressman Joe Baca from his position as a staffer in Baca’s office after word of the arrest became public.
The district attorney’s office proceeded with filing the case against Clauder, despite anomalies, including that the downloads in question were limited in scope and occurred during a very compressed timeframe. The case was assigned to Deputy District Attorney Maryanne Jung Won Choi. In late 2009 and again in the spring of 2010, Choi was provided with exculpatory evidence indicating Pittman and Stancher, rather than Clauder, were responsible for the downloads that had resulted in the charges against Clauder. That evidence included that when Pittman and Stancher submitted to a polygraph examination on January 8, 2009 and were questioned regarding their discovery of the images, both “failed” and made what were characterized as “inconsistent” statements. Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Swann, however, deemed the allegations made by Pittman and Stancher to be credible. It was the report sent over to the prosecutor’s office by Swann and other sheriff’s department employees that the district attorney’s office based its prosecution of Clauder upon.
Choi failed to pass on to Clauder’s defense team the full range of exculpatory material relating to the case, including findings by the sheriff’s department’s High Tech Crime Unit which cast doubt on whether Clauder was responsible for downloading the images.
Ultimately, in September 2012, the district attorney’s office dismissed all criminal charges against Clauder after a computer forensics expert, Sheryl Katz, was able to establish that the images had been downloaded during a time when Clauder did not have access to the computer, which at that point was in the possession of his stepson and Pittman. The offending images downloaded onto the computer bore the tell-tale electronic signature cybernetically imprinted when they had been obtained via peer-to-peer networking software registered to Stancher’s account. Despite Pittman and Stancher’s assertion that they did not have the password to access the computer, the computer had some 30,000 system events, with daily activity, between May 1 and July 7, 2008, during which time Clauder was not living with Pittman and Stancher.
Faced with the data Katz had unearthed, the sheriff’s department, in the personage of Sergeant Roberto Lomeli, subjected Stancher to an interrogation. During the course of Lomeli’s questioning, Stancher acknowledged an “uncontrollable hate” for his stepfather and that it was he who had downloaded the child pornography onto Clauder’s computer.
Choi, who had previously refused to accept anything less than a guilty plea that would have subjected Clauder to at least four years in prison, requested that the case against Clauder be dismissed “in the interest of justice.” The Superior Court, at Clauder’s request, in December 2012, issued a finding of factual innocence in the case against him.
Frasher has dozens, and perhaps scores, of enemies. Until his resignation yesterday, he had been a member of the Redlands Planning Commission since 2012. During that time, Redlands City Hall, including the city council and the planning commission, has been out of step with a vocal and sizable contingent of residents opposed to aggressive growth and development within the city. Members of the city council and the planning commission have, consistently over the years that Frasher was an appointed city official, approved projects involving intensive land use and densities, including high rise projects in the downtown area, in some cases approaching 100 residential units per acre.
In that same timeframe, Frasher has been a member of a coalition of city officials pushing for the city’s adoption of an official policy embracing accelerated development by erasing the low-growth, slow-growth and controlled-growth initiatives – Proposition R in 1978, Measure N in 1987 and Measure U in 1997 – passed by Redlands’ voters. In 2020, those pro-growth oriented city officials, of whom Frasher was a part, sought to get the city’s voters to approve Measure G, which would have rescinded Proposition R, Measure N and Measure U in one fell swoop. The city’s voters overwhelming, by a 64.88 percent to 35.12 percent margin, rejected Measure G. A substantial cross section of the city’s residents who are opposed to accelerated development has come to collectively believe that most, if not all, of the current city council and their planning commission appointees are in the pocket of the building industry. Frasher, who had acceded to the chairmanship of the planning commission, was widely perceived as a prime mover of the city’s aggressive growth agenda.
An accusation of any manifestation of pedophilia in modern American society carries with it an overwhelmingly discrediting effect.
Computer hacking is an increasingly common phenomenon. A variety of methods is available to hackers to gain access to computers that are linked to the internet, including sending to a victim an email or pop-up with a deceptive message to induce the recipient to click a link, which will allow access through the same type of back door or trapdoor that law enforcement investigators can exploit to get access to a computer’s hard drive. Through that link, without the computer user’s knowledge, material of any sort, including pornographic images, can be infiltrated to the target hard drive. This would leave a cybernetic fingerprint, but unless a concerted effort at analysis were to be performed, that infiltration route would not be apparent. Unless investigators were to go to the effort of conducting such a forensic examination, the discovery of offending images on a hard drive could prove sufficient grounds to effectuate the arrest of, and initiate criminal charges against, that computer’s or device’s owner.
Frasher did not respond to efforts, via email and phone, to elicit a statement from him regarding his arrest and decision to resign from the planning commission.
-Mark Gutglueck

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