San Diego

Popular North County Horse Ranch Owner, Facing Child Porn Charges, Pleads Not Guilty

A federal complaint unsealed before Christmas alleges the images showed "sexually explicit conduct" with children under 12 years old, some involving the use of animals.

The owner of a popular North County horse ranch facing federal child pornography charges appeared in federal court Thursday for his arraignment. 

Christian Clews, 51, was formally charged with possession and distribution of child pornography, according to a U.S. Attorney's office spokeswoman. He pleaded not guilty. 

In addition to his plea, Judge Schopler ordered Clews to stay at his home at the ranch between 2 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following morning every day of the week. 

He will be allowed outside his house from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. to take care of his work, so long as no minors are nearby. All independent contractors that train and work at the property are required to be notified that they may not train minors - and minors may not be on the property - before 2 p.m. any day of the week. 

Clews appeared in court following a two-year-long Homeland Security investigation that began with images investigators say were found on the ranch owner's mobile phone.

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Christian Clews was last interviewed by NBC 7 in 2007 when he was in dispute with the Chabad Jewish Center of Del Mar over the use of a farmhouse next to his ranch.

According to the complaint, investigators found numerous child pornography images and video files on multiple electronic devices.

The images showed "sexually explicit conduct" with children under 12 years old, according to the complaint. Some allegedly involved the use of animals.

The complaint indicates Clews admitted to investigators he possessed and distributed child porn after they read him his rights.

Clews Horse Ranch is an established Carmel Valley horse boarding and training facility.

By most accounts, the ranch is often swarming with kids.

The complaint does not indicate whether children who visited the ranch could be seen in any of the confiscated images, but those close to the case tell NBC7 San Diego Police are trying to determine the answer to that very question.

Clews was also an investor representative on the Carmel Valley community planning board. According to the website, his term ended in 2016.

Clews will next appear in federal court on Feb. 24. 

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