Clews gets new attorney, next court date set for July 21

Christian Clews, the operator of a family-owned Carmel Valley horse ranch, has brought on a new attorney to represent him on federal charges of possession and distribution of child pornography.

Clews appeared in court on Friday, May 26, with his new attorney, Gina Tennen of Woodland Hills. Formerly, Clews, 51, was represented by San Diego attorney Hamilton Arendsen. No reason for the change was given in court.

Clews appeared before Judge Dana M. Sabraw. A hearing to discuss motions and set a trial date was scheduled for 11 a.m. on July 21.

Tennen said she needed time to familiarize herself with the case and review several hundred pages of documents, as well as numerous text messages seized by investigators.

Clews, a former long-time member of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board, remains under house arrest at the family ranch at 11500 Clews Ranch Road.

The charges against Clews stem from a two-year investigation by the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which includes local police departments, prosecutors and federal law enforcement agencies. The lead investigator on the case is a special agent with U.S. Homeland Security.

The investigation began in late 2014 when the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children notified the San Diego task force that it had detected two child pornography images uploaded by an individual with a cellular phone. According to court documents, investigators traced the cell phone to Clews and his family’s business, Clews Horse Ranch.

Last October, task force agents searched Clews’ home on the horse ranch property, and seized multiple electronic devices, which contained numerous child pornography image and video files, according to court documents.

A “statement of facts” filed with the court by task force members said that on the date his home was searched, Clews admitted to possessing and distributing child pornography.

Following his arrest on Dec. 20, Clews was released on a $150,000 bond, under the conditions that he remain on his property or in his house, and wear an electronic monitoring device.

At a court hearing in January, a federal prosecutor requested additional restrictions on Clews’ movements, citing allegations by at least three people that they had been subjected to “inappropriate sexual contact” by Clews when they were minors.

No further details of the allegations were offered, and the prosecutor declined to comment after the hearing.

Clews’ attorney said in court that his client “vociferously refutes” the allegations of inappropriate sexual contact.

No charges have been filed against Clews in relation to the allegations. However, Clews’ conditions of release were altered to only allow him out on the ranch property from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, as long as no minors are present.

Following Friday’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rene Green declined to comment on whether additional charges will be filed regarding the allegations of inappropriate sexual contact.