Emery brothers in court: Attorneys ask for mental competency evaluation

SEATTLE  -- One of a trio of elderly Seattle brothers facing child pornography charges pleaded not guilty Thursday, while another missed the court hearing because he'd been hospitalized and the third was ordered to face a competency evaluation because he suffers from severe dementia.

The men — Charles Emery, 82; Thomas Emery, 80; and Edwin Emery, 78 — are each being held on $500,000 bail after their arrests this month.

Investigators said a relative discovered evidence of child exploitation as she was cleaning out the garage of a home her three uncles had shared for 55 years. When Seattle police searched the home, they found it packed floor-to-ceiling with child pornography and children's toys and clothes — though the men have no children of their own, they said.

"The investigation revealed that each of the defendants has a sexual interest in minor children and have shared the majority of their lives sexually abusing children to whom they had access and exploiting children depicted in child pornography," senior deputy King County prosecutor Cecelia Gregson wrote in a bail request to the court.

Investigators wrote in court documents that they have also searched other properties — which include a home that belonged to an older brother of the three, who died last November — for "the presence of child exploitation materials and evidence of kidnapping, abuse, and child homicide."

Prosecutors say the investigation continues, but the only charges the brothers face so far is possession of child pornography.

A King County Jail deputy pushed Charles Emery, wearing a bright red jail uniform and a scruff of white whiskers, into the courtroom in a wheelchair. His attorney, Jesse Dubow, asked Superior Court Judge Sean O'Donnell to order a competency evaluation, a request Dubow said was based on his review of charging papers as well as his conversations with jail staff and his client.

The judge agreed and set another court hearing in three weeks.

The relative who alerted police to the items she found in the garage petitioned for and was awarded guardianship of Charles Emery earlier this summer because of what she described as his severe dementia.

Dubow did not return an email seeking further comment about the case, nor did lawyers for Edwin Emery, who pleaded not guilty. Thomas Emery's attorney, Joshua Poisell, declined to comment after the hearing.

Edwin Emery missed the court hearing after being admitted to Harborview Medical Center for undisclosed reasons. Hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said Thursday he was in intensive care.

In a probable cause statement filed in support of the charges, a Seattle police detective wrote that Edwin Emery previously came under investigation for child pornography in 2013, after he brought a computer to an Office Depot store for repair and workers there found images on the device.

During that investigation, Edwin Emery acknowledged having molested two female relatives decades earlier, the detective wrote. No charges were filed after prosecutors determined the images "did not meet filing standards for exploitation crimes against children," Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the King County Prosecutor's Office, said in an email. The statute of limitations for any sex crimes would have expired, he said.