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3 Charlotte men face child porn charges

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com
Baalerud
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Baalerud, Paul Edward: 1/10/2014, 1599739. 5'9", 180. Charged with: SECOND DEG SEX EXPLOIT MINOR. SECOND DEG SEX EXPLOIT MINOR. SECOND DEG SEX EXPLOIT MINOR. THIRD DEG SEX EXPLOIT MINOR. THIRD DEG SEX EXPLOIT MINOR. THIRD DEG SEX EXPLOIT MINOR.

Three Charlotte men – including a registered sex offender – have been arrested on child pornography charges in connection with an online undercover investigation that started earlier this month.

Paul Baalerud, 54; Paul Knapen 43; and Jared Smith, 31, were arrested between Jan. 10 and Tuesday. Baalerud and Knapen have been released on bond. Smith was still in jail late Sunday.

The investigation started when the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children sent a tip to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Cyber Crimes unit, saying that an Internet user had uploaded child pornography.

From there, the unit worked to develop leads online through an undercover investigation.

Baalerud was arrested first, on Jan. 10, and charged with three counts of second-degree exploitation of a minor and three counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, according to police.

Knapen was arrested Jan. 17 and charged with six counts of third-degree exploitation of a minor.

On Tuesday, investigators arrested Smith and charged him with third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. Smith has been a registered sex offender since 2011, when he was convicted on two charges of taking indecent liberties with a 7-year-old in Union County.

In North Carolina, a person is guilty of second-degree exploitation of a minor if he records or distributes images of a child engaged in some sort of sexual activity. Third-degree exploitation occurs when a person possesses such material.

Police were not available Sunday to give further details.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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