Expert combats crime with computers

By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer

For the last four years, Dennis Usery, 47, has been a man the public doesn’t see — a pivotal person behind thousands of criminal case investigations from the 9th judicial District Attorney’s Office, New Mexico State Police and local law enforcement agencies.

Usery is the Information Systems Manager for the DA’s office. He is a computer forensics expert and prepares computer-generated maps, images and animation for courtroom presentations.

This year, Usery was named the “employee of the year” by the New Mexico Association of District Attorney’s, DA Matt Chandler said.

After graduating high school, Usery went into the Air Force for 22 years, where he watched computers evolve into portable forms with extensive networking capabilities, he said. He was based all over the world, from Iceland to Clovis, and made Curry County his home four years ago when he began working with the DA’s office.

Cracking cases of child pornography and fraud often depends on computer evidence. A hard drive can hold the answers to many questions, even when crashed or deleted, Usery said.

The evidence Usery gathers from hard drives is damning, “I’ve never had to testify in court, they (defendants) usually plead,” he said.

Usery has worked more than a dozen cases of child pornography in his four years with the DA’s office.

“Seeing so much child pornography is bothersome. The kids are often 3 and 4 years old,” Usery said.

Usery’s job is to gather evidence so that viewers of child pornography can be charged.

“Most child pornography comes from other countries, it’s legal in Japan,” he said. However Usery said that once child pornography is downloaded to a hard drive in the U.S. over the Internet, it crosses international borders and becomes illegal.

Usery said he is currently investigating a case that involves one suspect, one computer and more than 4,000 pornographic images of children.

Companies often turn to law enforcement and hand over computers used by terminated employees who have been suspected of viewing porn at work; the hard drives are handed over by police to Usery.

Though viewing adult Internet porn is not illegal, it is grounds for an employee to be fired, Usery said.

Usery also makes ballistic and accident reconstruction possible through computer animation software in criminal cases for trial proceedings. He believes courtroom technology will explode in the future because, “By projecting reconstruction on a big screen, jurors can concentrate on both words and images.”

Saturday’s shooting of a bouncer at the Prince Street Lounge in Clovis involved a surveillance video taken by the business; according to Clovis police.

Usery said police needed to see the video frame by frame, and they turned to him to facilitate suspect identification and to prepare the video as evidence.

“This is a field I’ll always stay in. I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Usery said.