by Ivan Foley
A man who owned and operated a former Platte City Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year has pled guilty to possessing child pornography, a Class B felony, in Clay County.
Jeremy B. Ray, 37, of Kansas City in Clay County, pled guilty in late October to an amended charge described in court records as possessing more than 20 pictures of child pornography/one film/ videotape.
The original charge against Ray had been filed in June of 2013.
Ray owned and operated JRay’s Restaurant and Bar in a strip mall on Platte Falls Road in Platte City. JRay’s became a popular meeting spot for some patrons, including a group that included a couple of higher level county department heads along with two elected county officials, on weekend evenings.
In February of 2013, JRay’s was announced as the Platte City Chamber of Commerce Business of the year for the calendar year 2012.
The Landmark broke the story of Ray’s criminal charges in August of 2013.
Ray gave a media interview shortly after The Landmark’s exclusive story in which he vigorously denied the charge, telling the Platte County Citizen: “I’m 100 percent innocent. People that know me know that’s not the kind of person I am, that I’m not capable of stuff like that.” The publisher of the Citizen at the time wrote an opinion column in which he said he believed Ray when Ray told him he was not guilty of the charge.
The restaurant closed several weeks after Ray’s criminal charges came to light. Court records seem to indicate there were financial problems prior to the criminal charge. On multiple occasions prior to Ray’s criminal charge, the Missouri Division of Employment Security had taken legal steps against him in regard to collecting Missouri unemployment tax payments. Actions of that kind took place twice in 2011, once in 2012 and at least once in 2013.
In announcing the Business of the Year honor, the Platte City Chamber of Commerce listed Jeremy Ray and Emily Petermann as co-owners of Jray’s.
Ray’s guilty plea came on Oct. 29. A sentencing assessment report was ordered and Ray’s sentencing could be announced as early as this week. A hearing in his case is on the docket for Thursday, Jan. 7 at 1:30 p.m. in Clay County Circuit Court.
The range of punishment for a Class B felony is 5-15 years in state prison. According to court documents obtained by The Landmark, prosecutors will be asking for five years in prison. The defendant is free to argue for any disposition within the range of punishment.
According to a court document signed by Ray, he admits: “On March 20, 2013, in Clay County, Missouri I recklessly possessed pornography of a child under the age of 18.”
In other portion of the same document, known as the first amended information, the child porn in question is described as involving a sex act between a male less than 18 and a prepubescent female.
The original statement of probable cause, filed by a detective with the Platte County Sheriff’s Department who serves on the Western Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, outlined an online undercover investigation that began in December of 2012 and continued at various times from Jan. 20 through March 20, 2013. During that time, a computer with an IP address that authorities say they tracked to Ray was allegedly observed online in possession of child pornography on a publicly available peer-to-peer file sharing network.
The subscriber with the IP address was learned through an investigative subpoena served to AT&T Internet Services. The subscriber address was the residence in the 100 block of NE 83rd St., though the subscription was not in Ray’s name.
The search warrant was served at the home on March 25, 2013. Court papers allege that after being read his Miranda rights, Ray was asked if there would be child pornography on his computer. According to court papers, Ray replied “Possibly.”
Two computers were seized and submitted for a forensic analysis. Authorities allege the child porn image files were found on a desktop computer and child porn video files were allegedly found on both computers.
In their statement of probable cause filed with the court along with the original charge in 2013, authorities said they found 113 image files and 179 video files containing suspected child pornography on his computers after executing a search warrant at Ray’s residence.