Robert W. Brown Jr.

Robert W. Brown Jr.

NEW ALBANY — A New Albany man facing two felonies for child exploitation has appeared for an initial hearing in Floyd County, a week after his arrest in Louisville.

Robert W. Brown Jr. was arrested Jan. 17 at Muhammad Ali Louisville International Airport, shortly after landing from a flight on which he was a passenger, bringing him back from a flight he had piloted. Brown has been employed as a commercial pilot for a passenger airline.

Although his charges — two level 4 felonies for child exploitation — were filed the day of his arrest, the case was sealed until his hearing Friday. The defendant was held by the Louisville Metro Police Department until his extradition to Floyd County late this week.

During the initial hearing, a not guilty plea was entered on his behalf, and Brown's attorney, Richard Rush requested a bond reduction. Floyd County Deputy Prosecutor Evan Bardach objected, stating that Brown is in possession of a passport and could be a flight risk.

However, Rush told Floyd County Superior Court No. 1 Judge Susan Orth that his client was willing to voluntarily surrender his passport, which he said was in luggage still in custody by airport police. The state has filed for a search warrant into that luggage, which could have been executed as early as Friday. Brown waived in court the 15-day hold in which he could have objected to the warrant.

Brown now has a bond reduction hearing set for 10 a.m. Jan. 28, and his attorney hopes the waiver will affect the judge's decision on bond reduction in his favor.

He supported that by saying he and Brown had met with detectives after a warrant had been executed at his home, but before charges were filed, and that Brown had not attempted to flee while free.

"It would seem to me that if a person who was fearful of arrest or prosecution and knew that the police had obtained certain evidence, if you had the means and the ability to flee, that would have been the time do it," Rush said, adding that both he and his client were surprised by the way the arrest happened.

"We were given assurances by the detective that if charges were filed, he should be afforded an opportunity to surrender himself to avoid the circus that happened at the airport," Rush said. "We weren't given that opportunity."

However, New Albany Police Chief Todd Bailey said in an email that no such agreement was ever made and that the arrest was handled properly.

Rush said cases like this can be difficult because of the nature of the allegations themselves.

"These types of allegations are such that I think there's a rush to judgment," he said. "You hear these types of allegations and the instant reaction...is 'Oh my gosh, what a horrific thing to be accused of.'

"I think many of us just presume someone's already guilty, but we have a right to...we're presumed innocent in this country."

During the hearing, the state said there could be additional charges filed in the case. Chief Deputy Prosecutor Chris Lane declined comment at this time following the hearing.

Brown has an initial pretrial conference set for Feb. 27; a jury trial is scheduled for May 25 in Floyd County Superior Court No. 1.

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at aprile.rickert@newsandtribune.com or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.

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