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Rhoades' bond hearing delayed again

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The bond hearing was supposed to be completed in a couple of minutes on the 18th floor of the Richard B. Russell Federal Building, but had to be continued when questions came up about the possibility a 42-year-old man would molest young girls, if released.

The Wednesday afternoon hearing in United States Magistrate Judge Alan J. Baverman's court was continued to Thursday morning in Atlanta. However, on Thursday, with members of the media and the federal prosecutors office waiting in the courtroom at 10:30 a.m., the bond hearing was continued again, without any official explanation.

Douglas Yutaka Rhoades, a security guard who is charged with impersonating a Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent and possession child pornography, was not in court. Prison officials refused to comment on the man's absence. The bond hearing was continued, a second time, to Monday afternoon.

The hearing is expected to pick up where it left off, with allegations Rhoades once sent a Mother's Day card to an 11-year-old girl, referring to her as "the mother of my child."

The lead prosecutor, Assistant United States Attorney Paul Jones, told the court that the FBI suspects Rhoades may have sexually abused girls between the ages of 10 and 12. An FBI agent testified there are two girls -- one who lived near the man's Jonesboro home, and another who is the stepdaughter of Rhoades' closest friend -- who are considered "potential victims," but the investigation is ongoing and charges have not yet been levied.

The two girls have been interviewed by Clayton County Police and FBI agents, but initial interviews only looked for indications of sexual abuse and the interviewers did not directly ask the young girls if they had been molested by Rhoades.

Federal prosecutors also fear there may be other victims out there who have not yet come forward. Rhoades' picture was released to the media -- something the federal prosecutors do not usually do -- in hopes that others will come forward and report Rhoades to the FBI at (404) 679-9000.

Rhoades was initially being investigated on allegations of molestation made by his ex-wife. She reportedly contacted the Clayton County Police department, but warned them he worked for the FBI. A check of his credentials showed he didn't actually work for the bureau, but had apparently been lying to his wife and his friend, telling them he was an undercover agent investigating rogue agents and child pornography. Charges were brought on the allegations of impersonation, and the arrest lead FBI agents to 75 DVDs of what they believe to is child pornography. Investigation into the allegations of molestation continues.

Evidence Rhoades molested children, was, initially, inconclusive. Photographs reportedly show him sitting uncomfortably close to a young girl, but, an FBI agent testified, others were in the room, in the photos, and nothing illegal appeared to be happening. When arrested, Rhoades was driving a minivan which carried alleged child pornography, camera equipment, blankets and bags of candy. The federal agency has not yet identified the apparently underage girls provocatively posed in the pictures, though, and do not know how Rhoades came to be in possession of the disks. It was not clear, to the agents, that the blankets, cameras and candy were in the car for devious reasons.

The bureau also has the Mother's Day card written to the teen but, at this point, the evidence amounts to suspicions and authorities' feeling that the entire case is "disturbing."

Bond can only be denied if Rhoades is considered to be a flight risk or a danger to the community. The prosecutors did not seem to think Rhoades would flee the area, if he was released on bond. His defense attorney said his passport has expired and the man has family here and has lived in the Jonesboro area for most of his life.

Prosecutors hope to prove, at the upcoming bond hearing, that Rhoades would be a threat to the community if he were released on bond. Defense attorneys are expected to argue that restrictions can be placed on the bond, ensuring everyone's safety, and that there are not yet any charges or substantial allegations he has hurt anyone. The defense is expected to argue that Rhoades, considered innocent until proven guilty, should be granted a bond unless there is solid evidence proving he's a danger.

Both sides should get a chance to make those arguments on Monday.