Monday, July 22, 2024

Plea deal ends child pornography case, Justin Brochure released from custody

After 203 total days in the custody of the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office, Justin Brochure has been released after agreeing to a plea offer Wednesday.

Justin Brochure is no longer in custody at the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office per a plea agreement with the state. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
Assistant District Attorney Jason Minnicozzi (center) and Judge Frank Jones during a hearing for Justin Brochure on Wednesday. Photo taken from the courtroom press box; cameras were not allowed in the courtroom itself. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

BOLIVIA — Justin Brochure, the son of Oak Island mayor Cin Brochure, is out of custody after pleading “no contest” in a plea agreement with the state stemming from 62 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor charges — 31 in the second degree and 31 in the third.

The charges arose out of an investigation that started with the Department of Homeland Security. In May 2017, federal forensic analysts obtained copies of 112 images and three videos depicting minor children in sexually exploitative depictions and acts during a search warrant conducted at an Oak Island address where Brochure was residing.

Related: Documents reveal the latest twist in Oak Island child pornography case

The evidence collected was tied to search, download, and storage dates between August 2015 and March 2017. Because the evidence did not reach the federal threshold for prosecution, it was handed over to local law enforcement in Oak Island, where Brochure’s mother has served as mayor since 2016.

A “no contest” plea does not admit wrongdoing. However, those who enter into a no contest plea are treated as if they are guilty.

The agreement

Superior Court Judge Frank Jones accepted the state’s plea offer around 4:45 p.m. Wednesday in Brunswick County Criminal Superior Court.

Terms of the state’s offer include three consecutive — but suspended — sentences, at a minimum of 25 months to a maximum of 90 months in prison. Each sentence carries a five year supervised probation term.

Brochure will not be subject to satellite-based monitoring, per the agreement. He will be on the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry for 30 years but will be permitted contact with his adult and minor biological children. And lastly, he is required to complete a sex offender treatment program.

Compared to other childhood exploitation cases, the state finds Brochure’s crimes to be on the lower end of the spectrum. Assistant District Attorney Jason Minnicozzi characterized Brochure’s conduct as not physically threatening.

“In my experience, there’s two types of child pornography cases. There’s child pornography cases where the defendant creates the photographs and or touches children in addition to the collecting,” Minnicozzi told Judge Jones Wednesday.

And then there are cases like Brochure’s, Minnicozzi said, which appear to only consist of viewing and duplicating the exploitative content.

“From the state’s perspective, those are vastly different types of cases and deserve to be treated differently,” Minnicozzi said. “That is why we are satisfied with this plea.”

Damon Chetson, Brochure’s defense attorney, told Judge Jones he found the punishment to be “harsh.” Chetson also shared his client, Brochure, does not agree “with the actual facts” of the case (meaning he denies the charges) but agrees there is a factual basis for the plea agreement.

“He appreciates the court and the fact that the embarrassment that has been caused to his mother will now come to an end,” Chetson said.

The investigation

Given Cin Brochure’s role as mayor, Minnicozzi acknowledged outside questions raised about the integrity of the investigation.

He said Southport Police Department had concerns that Mayor Brochure’s position “might sway law enforcement from taking action or not taking action.” However, the Oak Island officer who handled the case said she had no concerns about it.

“It didn’t seem to me that when I spoke with the charging officer [Kristy] DeMello that she had any concern about her action in this case,” Minnicozzi told Judge Jones.

Brochure had relocated to Leland from Oak Island by the time he was arrested on June 26, 2018, over a year after The Department of Homeland Security’s conducted its property search under federal search warrants at 427 Womble Street. When asked after the hearing whether the May 2017 search was covert, Minnicozzi said no, but that he was not familiar with how the department conducts its searches. Property was taken, Minnicozzi said.

Minnicozzi told the court that Homeland Security Investigations agents were monitoring peer-to-peer child-sharing networks of child pornography on Feb. 22, 2017. They traced an IP address possessing and distributing the content — not on the dark web — to Oak Island. Agents confirmed with Time Warner Cable the IP address belonged to Joey Brochure, Justin’s father, at 427 Womble Street. Brunswick County Register of Deeds records revealed 427 Womble Street was also Mayor Brochure’s mailing address.

Officer Demello is listed as a participant on the Feb. 2017 incident report. Three months later, trained forensic analysists conducted their physical search of the property.

Throughout the investigation, Oak Island Police Department remained lead, and the case was not transferred to any other agency. However, Officer Demello, lead detective on the case, was transferred in February after applying to the department’s reopened Community Resource Officer role. Demello did not appear in court Wednesday.

Minnicozzi addressed the delay in arresting Brochure after court. He said the long wait to bring Brochure in came from Homeland Security — not Oak Island Police Department. He said Oak Island Police Department did not possess the material it needed from Homeland Security until it issued its first warrants to arrest Brochure in June 2018.

Contact with minors

After posting bail on July 2, 2018, Brochure was re-arrested on Oct. 10 while attending court in New Hanover County. The re-arrest was ordered because he violated his pre-trial release agreement by being in contact with minors.

At first, his bond was set at $2 million for violating his release terms. After the initial bond hearing, District Court Judge Ashley Gore lowered it to $50,000. Brochure was released on Oct. 16 after posting bail, according to his release order.

Two days after Brochure’s re-arrest, Oak Island’s Police Chief Greg Jordan resigned. Exactly one week later, on Oct. 19, assistant chief Tony Burke resigned. After declining to comment for nearly two weeks, Oak Island — through its town attorney — finally addressed the issue, stating categorically that neither resignation was related to the Brochure case.

Mayor Brochure leveraged her Oak Island property as collateral for her son’s release, two 2018 Deeds of Trust show. One for $50,000 (tied to his second arrest) and one for $100,000 (tied to his first bond, which was reduced from $1 million) are linked to Mayor Brochure’s 68th Street property, with Justin Brochure listed as the beneficiary.

According to the state’s motion for a bond modification hearing, Brochure’s bond was lowered based on “untruthful and/or inaccurate” information presented before Judge Gore. This finding followed an investigation by Officer Demello. Court records show his bond remained at $50,000 after the modification hearing.

On Wednesday, Minnicozzi described the hearing after Brochure’s second arrest when false information was shared with Judge Gore. He told Judge Jones a witness on behalf of Brochure “made some statements about whether he was residing with children or not residing with children.” 

Minnicozzi continued: “There was some concern early on that the defendant might be having unsupervised contact with underage children or [was actually] physically living with children that were not his biological children. So that was alarming.”

However, Minnicozzi said due to the nature of Brochure’s conduct, he does not believe Brochure has or will physically harm children.

“I will say – since he’s been in custody, for six months or so, I am persuaded that that offers an opportunity for any child to come forward to disclose any concerns,” Minnicozzi said Wednesday. “We’ve not heard anything since he’s been in custody.”

Minnicozzi concluded: “I will say, as a prosecutor, as courthouse personnel, as law enforcement personnel, we’ll never really know anything for sure. But my experience tells me six months is enough time for those concerns to come forward and we’ve not heard anything whatsoever about actual harm to the children.”

Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at

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