Tuesday, June 28, 2022
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Allegations of a Cover-Up After Son of a Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Faces Child Porn Charges—Sheriff Speaks Out

Mugshot of Bailey Comer [Mugshot from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Booking Logs]

Trent James is a former Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office deputy and a former officer with the Willits Police Department who left the county and has gone on to create the YouTube channel Confessions of an Ex-Cop. James has released numerous videos that purportedly reveal corruption within the command staff of his former employers.

In December, James claimed that MCSO’s Lieutenant JD Comer was under investigation for possession of child pornography and MCSO was actively covering it up. Two days ago, he refined his accusations in his latest video after Comer’s son Bailey was booked in the Mendocino County Jail for alleged possession of child pornography. 

James claimed MCSO went to great lengths to protect Comer, tamp down the investigation, and minimize public information about the case. As of this writing, the video has almost 11,000 views.

Yesterday, Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall sat down with us to address James’s accusations and discuss the realities he faces of “doing what is right” when investigating one of his own.

Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall [Picture from MCSO]

Sheriff Kendall said on September 25, 2019, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), a national team of cybercrime investigators, determined that a folder on the cloud-sharing service DropBox contained child pornography and was being accessed via an internet connection somewhere in Mendocino County.

ICAC informed the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office of these claims on October 31, 2019–over one month later.

On the same day that the information was received, Sheriff Kendall explained, a deputy was assigned to investigate the case. The deputy filed a search warrant to obtain information about the internet traffic associated with the IP address that ICAC had identified.

On November 4, 2019, MCSO learned from information gained with the search warrant that the IP address was associated with a home in Fort Bragg owned by MCSO Lieutenant JD Comer where multiple people reside. These findings resulted in the beginnings of both a criminal investigation and an internal affairs investigation. 

Regarding the criminal investigation, Kendall said that he reached out to the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office to “find an agency that would work with this” knowing that criminally investigating one of his employees would be a conflict of interest.

MCSO and the DA’s Office requested assistance from the Sacramento Valley High Tech Crimes Task Force (SVHTCTF), a branch of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, staffed with the appropriate equipment and personnel to conduct the specialized investigations required of cyber crimes.

Sheriff Kendall said MCSO’s most immediate objective was to identify if there was any possibility his employee, Lieutenant Comer, was the one accessing the DropBox file.

Three days later, the SVHTCTF cleared Lieutenant Comer as a suspect. Sheriff Kendall said they were able to cross-reference Comer’s confirmed location against specific dates the Dropbox was accessed from outside of both Mendocino County and the State of California. “He could not have been two places at once,” Sheriff Kendall said.

From early November 2019 to January 2022, the task force conducted their investigation into who had accessed the DropBox folder containing child pornography. Sheriff Kendall said his agency “prodded the task force a number of times” during this period, but could not speak to why it took over two years for the investigation to be completed. “I am not in charge of the task force so I do not know why it took so long,” he told us

Trent James, however, speculated the extended duration of the investigation suggested MCSO was actively covering for their employee rather than investigating them. 

Sheriff Kendall patently rejected this claim that the investigation’s duration was proof of his agency attempting to protect their employee. He suggested law enforcement staffing issues, the closure of police academies across the state due to COVID disruptions, and the complex nature of cyber crimes investigation could all be contributing factors to the drawn-out timeline. 

On November 19, 2021, Trent James released a video on his YouTube channel claiming Lieutenant Comer was under investigation for the possession of child pornography. 

When James made these claims, Sheriff Kendall said his agency’s “hands were tied” because the criminal investigation was still ongoing and at that point, he could not comment on the case. Now, since Comer’s son has been charged, he has the opportunity “to defend Lieutenant Comer and tell the truth.”

On January 17, 2022, MCSO was contacted by the SVHTCTF and informed their investigation had concluded and they would be submitting the case to the Mendocino County District Attorney to be charged. Based on this information, the internal affairs investigation against Lieutenant Comer was officially closed after investigators decided his son Bailey was accessing the child pornography, not the Lieutenant. 

From the time the investigation was handed off to SVHTCTF until the charges were filed by the Mendocino County District Attorney, Sheriff Matt Kendall said, “I had no idea who the suspect was, as designed. I wanted to remove myself from the investigation from the conflict of interest. We took these steps to make sure nothing dirty or underhanded could occur.”

On April 26, 2022,  District Attorney David Eyster filed a criminal complaint against Bailey Comer, Lieutenant JD Comer’s son, accusing him of PC 311.1, the unlawful and knowing possession of videos and images depicting persons under 18 years of age engaging or simulating sexual conduct.

22CR01014-LTA-FOR-51622-1

On May 15, 2022, Bailey Comer was booked and released in the Mendocino County Jail, as per a directive written by Mendocino County’s District Attorney sent by mail to Comer. James claims the issuance of a book and release notice instead of a warrant indicates MCSO was making things easier for their Lieutenant’s son.

However, Sheriff Kendall responded by saying, “That’s not our call. That’s the District Attorney’s.”

Another detail around Comer’s arrest that James uses to implicate MCSO in a cover-up is the fact there was no press release issued.

To that, Sheriff Kendall replied, “We didn’t investigate the case. The Sacramento Valley High Tech Crimes Task Force investigated it. They’re the ones that possess the information about the investigation.”

If Comer’s case was to go to court, investigators from the High Tech Task Force would take the stand against Comer, not deputies from MCSO, Sheriff Kendall explained.

In his most recent video, James claimed MCSO purposefully “charged down” as reflected in the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Booking Logs where Bailey Comer is listed as being charged with a misdemeanor.

22CR01014-Complaint-Filed-JBSIS

However, as per the criminal complaint filed by the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office, Comer is being charged with a felony, not a misdemeanor.

Sheriff Kendall simply chalked that inconsistency up to a clerical error made either at the hands of the deputy processing Comer or a computer glitch.  

Besides the claims that the Sheriff’s Department attempted to cover up the child pornography allegations, James contends in his video that he has intel that MCSO is conducting a “witch hunt” looking for anyone that could be feeding him information that could defame the department. 

Sheriff Kendall confirmed that MCSO has been conducting an internal affairs investigation on a deputy they believe was releasing information about an active investigation. Sheriff Kendall said, “I could not care less about who talks to Trent James.” 

There is no “witch hunt”, Sheriff Kendall explained, “but divulging information about active investigations can prevent justice. When someone realizes they are a suspect in a case, it can cause the suspect to destroy evidence and form alibis.” With this in mind, Sheriff Kendall asserted, “we cannot have deputy sheriffs handing out this information on active cases because you jeopardize the investigation and justice for the victims.”

James claims in his video that he had contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation approximately two weeks ago. Sheriff Kendall has not heard from the FBI about the case and said that if the FBI were involved, the charges Bailey Comer faces would be appearing in a federal court.

In James’ most recent video, he speaks about a March 2020 incident in which a Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office off-duty deputy overdosed on opioids. This resulted in a press release, composed by Sheriff Matt Kendall, promising transparency and accountability while the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office investigated the incident helping mitigate any potential conflicts of interest. James questioned why MCSO was not equally transparent about the investigation into the DropBox folder of child pornography. 

Addressing writing the press release about the deputy who overdosed, Sheriff Kendall said, “When a deputy breaks the law and steps out of line, we deal with them.” 

He went on to highlight the difference between the overdosing deputy and the Lieutenant Comer situation: “When a deputy is accused of something that he is not guilty of, then we have to stand up and defend him and tell the truth.” He went on to explain, “People can say whatever they want to say. They don’t have to play by the rules. But, I do. They don’t have to tell the truth, but I do.”

One of the charges Trent James leveled against Kendall in his recent video was that the Sheriff was a “bad politician.”

Kendall responded to that by saying, “He’s correct. I’m not a politician. I’m the Sheriff. And, I’m quite proud of that.”

Sheriff Kendall spoke of the dilemma he faced knowing one of his employees was navigating his son being accused of a crime. “You just feel terrible when your friends are going through things. This a traumatic event for their family.”

It must be stated that the charges described against Bailey Comer have not been proven in a court of law. In accordance with the legal principle of the presumption of innocence, any individual described should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

13 COMMENTS

  1. It must be stated that the charges described against Bailey Comer have not been proven in a court of law. In accordance with the legal principle of the presumption of innocence, any individual described should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
    If the accused is not in Law Enforcement, they are guilty until proven innocent.

    • I agree with you regarding due process. The point Mr. James is concerned about is fairness for ALL citizens and transparency within our county. Within law enforcement there is substantial cover up, not just mcso but fbpd. If your job is uphold the law, you better follow it. Let’s not brush it under the rug and ignore it.

      • Put it this way, MCSD’s wrap is so bad, that when someone can’t get a job at Marin County Sheriff, they always tell them to apply and put in a few years with either Lake County or MCSD and then to reapply back down here. Both of those agencies have a rep for having an incredibly low bar when it comes to screening ad hiring officers.

  2. What about Sheriff Tom Allmans [Edited}? There is a pattern of cover ups going on clearly and Tom Allman appointment of his buddy Matt Kendal a family friend is obviously another slap in the face to the women in Mendocino County setting us all up for exploitation after domestic violence cover ups. The woman of Mendocino and the Emerald Triangle are fed up to their ears with the patterns of corruption going on while they frame us as crazy denying us any acceptable recovery. Many of if not most women being abused by their partners are falling into the traps of substance abuse after being ignored by the people being paid to protect them. FED UP WITH THE LIES!
    Tom Allmans sons and wife have been emotionally effected by these men in power getting away with exploitation of the most vulnerable. How about the [EDITED]? One being Gerry Gonzalez who was the Chief of Willits PD and the head of Brooktrails fire both of who are married sickening

    • Your comment has been edited to remove content that broke our Comment Rule #2 “This platform will not be a host for libel. If you are critiquing a person, that critique must be based on facts, and not defaming their character.”

      • Hey Matt,

        Would love to hear you speak on your connection to MC Search and Rescue. Have you worked professionally with Matt Kendall or assisting the MCSD? Assuming what Mr James said about your connection to S&R, it would indeed seem that his assertions of bias within the article, ring quite true.

      • I have been a member of MCSO’s volunteer Search and Rescue team for over a year. I’m a backpacker and outdoorsman and I thought that background would be useful in a search and rescue context.

        Sheriff Kendall is of course the head of MCSO, but is not the SAR Commander. There is an internal volunteer leadership structure between SAR and MCSO.

        Regarding claims of bias within the article, I would not agree with that characterization. My role as a reporter is to provide air time to any party involved in a story. Throughout the piece, I summarize James’s critiques followed by Sheriff Kendall’s response.

        I also worked at length with Kym Kemp, the reporter at Redheaded Blackbelt and a mentor of mine, to ensure that bias did not creep in.

        Alas, any proximity to a subject I’m writing about will elicit claims of bias. This is one of the tensions of reporting on a community you live within.

  3. This…and a day after reading a statement on FB from a girl who was reportedly raped by a family member of the SO Dept. and who is currently being hired as a dispatcher! The victim is being told that she can’t do anything about it now b/c there is no way to prove anything! WTF is going on in this county!? As a woman and a mother of a daughter that lives in this county I am very very concerned about all of these incidents ! People need to raise their sons to not but sickos and I will raise my daughter to know she should never tolerate this type of insanity from anyone including authority figures!

  4. Matt Kendall needs to go, where there is smoke there is always fire. This story is a disgrace to the MCSO.

    “Sheriff Kendall simply chalked that inconsistency up to a clerical error made either at the hands of the deputy processing Comer or a computer glitch.” He must think we are all stupid.

    “Sheriff Kendall spoke of the dilemma he faced knowing one of his employees was navigating his son being accused of a crime. “You just feel terrible when your friends are going through things. This a traumatic event for their family.”
    No concern for the fucking kids being abused in the making of the child porn!!!!!!!! WTF!!!!!!

    • Let’s get the IT department to look into it. If it’s a “glitch” there will be a trail within the server logs. Agree, such BS!! MK needs to go.

  5. What a total disgrace to Jeanette and Cathy to tie this to their tragic death by a jealous bigot Brian Lofling, who yes had connections with the men you mentioned only because of his trust fund community stature and the fact some of them may infact have been to his $20 max per nite poker game much like that held other places in town that attracted other community members. The Sheriffs and DA made the right call to hand this to a more capable third party agency so a true and unbiased result would happen, the fact a Mendocino cyber crimes case was put as non priority by an agency not associated with state lab or the county of origin is sad but excusable as we all have seen the baristas own cup look better than theirs. We all are the same genius only our unique genetic code differentiates us and we all have family skeletons. I have met people in law enforcement and law who have family members at all levels that they felt close to convicted and serving time for crimes like rape,murder,robbery but that doesn’t make a person behind that fence just like them. This Trent James is a disgruntled addled former employee who thought law enforcement should be driven his way and it didn’t sit well with him or his employers, we should also look into his long admiration and friendship with Derrick Hendry as proof that he to was connected and stood for a homie/good ol boy club and Mr.Hendry cost us a change of guard and who knows how much in pending cases that we the residents of this town and county will pay for. So Mr. James I assume you have landed or are attempting to land the bonuses many agencies in Florida have offered along with the lifestyle and change in politics it has attracted many with.
    So if this man is convicted of his crimes we should paint a red letter on him and not support a return to this community, but tying it to former crimes and saying his families work should make him and that family accountable is not right, we all have jobs and LEO is not above us the only carry out a job just like the kid bagging the groceries at Safeway who’s trained not to put watermelons on top of eggs. We need to remove military your better of higher stature and societal value, they only do a dangerous and strenuous job of their choosing with a community that has the right to both applaud and express it’s dismay in their actions.

  6. I just wondered if Lieutenant Comer was on administrative leave for this time period? If not, why not?

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
Picking Brains—Baring Bones—Paying it By Ears: I'm a reporter in Mendocino County and the Founder of MendoFever.

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