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Man who sued Little Rock over police radios convicted of sexually assaulting teen, faces deportation

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Photographs by Lonoke County sheriff's office

Sebastian Westerhold

A German citizen suing Little Rock over its encryption of police radios faces deportation after he was convicted this month of sexually assaulting a teenage girl and impersonating a law enforcement officer in Lonoke County, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official said Thursday.

Federal agents arrested Sebastian Westerhold, 28, after he was convicted of fourth-degree sexual assault and second-degree criminal impersonation in Lonoke County Circuit Court. He was also convicted of possession of child pornography and multiple counts of felony forgery.

Westerhold was sentenced to six years of probation, and the case was closed the morning of May 4.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Westerhold later that day, agency spokesman Thomas Byrd said.

"Department of Justice databases indicate the German national has prior criminal convictions," Byrd said in a statement. "ICE possesses evidence of the criminal conviction which renders Westerhold removable from the U.S. ICE has placed Mr. Westerhold in removal proceedings."

Westerhold sued Little Rock in August 2014 after the city's Police Department began restricting radio broadcasts available to the public. The department said it encrypted those broadcasts because of privacy and officer safety concerns.

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Westerhold's lawsuit stated that Little Rock violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act when it refused to provide him with audio recordings of encrypted police broadcasts. The city argued that it would need to redact the recordings and create a new record, which is not required under the state Freedom of Information Act.

A city attorney later said the Westerhold-sought audio had been deleted 31 days after it was recorded, in accordance with a data storage policy.

City Attorney Tom Carpenter said Thursday that Little Rock had agreed to pay Westerhold $300 to settle the lawsuit.

There were no court filings documenting the agreement late Thursday.

In fact, there haven't been any filings in the suit since the Lonoke County sheriff's office arrested Westerhold on March 29, 2016. Deputies that day were called to his home in Cabot after a 16-year-old girl accused Westerhold of touching her genitals during a party. Investigators reported finding eight fraudulent driver's licenses and a fake Lonoke County sheriff's office ID with Westerhold's name and photo at the residence.

Westerhold had posed as a law enforcement officer online and sometimes went to crime scenes wearing body armor and "official looking credentials," according to a court affidavit filed in the case.

Investigators removed photography and printing equipment from Westerhold's home that had been used to manufacture the fake IDs, according to the sheriff's office. They also took computers from the home that were later found to contain sexual images of children, court filings show.

Westerhold is a blogger and circuit design engineer who had been scheduled to speak at Def Con, a national conference for hackers and cybersecurity experts, before he was arrested last year. Reports state that at the conference he was scheduled to discuss "critical flaws" in airline navigation and collision-avoidance systems.

Westerhold has lived in the United States since at least 2009, he indicated in his LinkedIn profile.

His arrest comes as federal authorities enforce stricter immigration and deportation policies enacted under President Donald Trump.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported Wednesday that it had arrested more than 41,000 people on civil immigration charges between Jan. 22 and April 29. That's about 37 percent more arrests than the agency recorded during the same period last year.

The agency said about 75 percent of those arrested this year are convicted criminals.

Metro on 05/19/2017

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