‘Cybertip’ led to former state budget director Peterson’s child porn arrest in Boise

Idaho political fixture Martin L. “Marty” Peterson made his initial court appearance Friday afternoon on child pornography charges.

Peterson, 76, was arrested Thursday after investigators executed a search warrant at his Boise home. He faces three felony counts of viewing/accessing sexually explicit images of minors between Jan. 1, 2018 and Oct. 3, 2019.

Ada County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Katelyn Farley told the court that the Idaho Internet Crimes Against Children Unit received a “cybertip” in January from Microsoft Bing alleging that child pornography had been uploaded to a computer.

Investigators from the Idaho Attorney General’s Office and Boise police traced the computer to Peterson’s home. During the search Thursday, Peterson allegedly told investigators that he viewed legal and illegal pornography, the prosecuting attorney told the judge.

“It is the state’s understanding the defendant brought up child pornography on his own, and it was without being prompted,” Farley said.

“The defendant indicated he would search the term ‘naked girls’ and that he would do this on a daily basis,” Farley continued. “He would masturbate on a daily basis while viewing these images. The defendant stated he began looking at these images approximately two years ago.”

Farley asked the judge to set a $500,000 bond, issue a no-contact order with any minors and confiscate Peterson’s passport because he frequently travels to Mexico, Guatemala and Cuba.

David Leroy, Peterson’s attorney, argued for Peterson to be released on his own recognizance because of his lengthy civic and community service record.

“He has served his community at the highest levels of civic responsibility, our congressional delegation and the highest levels in our Statehouse with constitutional officers,” Leroy said. “He has been an executive officer of substantial associations. He sits on many community boards.

“In short judge, for over half a century, he has accepted the highest levels of the most significant civil responsibility in our state.”

Leroy also noted that Peterson has no criminal record and that the “nature of the charge” is the “least high level,” because Peterson is accused of viewing sexually explicit images, not disseminating or creating them.

Ada County Magistrate Judge Michael Oths set Peterson’s bond at $20,000 and issued a no-contact order prohibiting Peterson from having any contact with unaccompanied minors. The judge also ordered Peterson to surrender his passport and not access the internet.

Peterson’s preliminary hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. Oct. 15 at the Ada County Courthouse.

Peterson has been a figure in Idaho politics for five decades. He served on U.S. Sen. Frank Church’s staff, on former Gov. Butch Otter’s transition team, as the executive director of the Association of Idaho Cities and on the Idaho Humanities Council, per his page on the Idaho Humanities Council website. He was also the budget director for former Govs. John Evans and Cecil Andrus, and has served as an assistant to several University of Idaho presidents.

Peterson, a Lewiston native and University of Idaho graduate, has served on U of I’s School of Journalism and Mass Media advisory board, the Friends of Idaho Public Television board and as the president for the Foundation for Idaho History. He also was the director of U of I’s James A. and Louise McClure Center for Public Policy Research.

Peterson has been a longtime community member of the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board. He has been removed from the board until this case has been adjudicated.

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Idaho Statesman investigative reporter Cynthia Sewell was named Idaho Press Club reporter of the year in 2017 and 2008. A University of Oregon graduate, she joined the Statesman in 2005. Her family has lived in Idaho since the mid-1800s.