UPDATE: 2:15 P.M. Friday
Jay Sears was released from federal custody on Friday afternoon after posting a $250,000 bond, which was secured after one of his friends put up her Quogue home as collateral.
As part of the agreement, Mr. Sears will be placed under house arrest and must wear an electronic monitoring bracelet at all times. He will be staying at the Quogue home of his friend, only identified as Gerta, and is not allowed computer access. He is also forbidden from seeing, talking to or, in any way, communicating with those under the age of 18 unless a parent or legal guardian is present.
He also had to agree to surrender his passport by Wednesday, February 20, and must submit to a psychological evaluation within three weeks.
Before allowing him to post bond, U.S. District Court Magistrate Kathleen Tomlinson asked Mr. Sears if he was aware of the financial risk that his family and friends were taking by supporting him.
“Yes, your honor, I understand,” Mr. Sears said. “I am very grateful.”
It was not immediately known when his next court appearance would be.
A federal judge on Thursday afternoon denied for a third time to set bail for Jay Sears, a prominent East End architect who was arrested on child pornography possession charges last month, stating that his attorneys failed to present the court with a sufficient bail package.
U.S. District Court Magistrate Kathleen Tomlinson rejected the bail package presented by Mr. Sears’s attorneys, Daniel Barker and Richard Signorelli, requesting that she release Mr. Sears on $250,000 bond and $100,000 cash security.
Justice Tomlinson explained that Mr. Sears, who attended the hour-long hearing in federal court in Central Islip wearing a prison-issued orange jumpsuit, did not put up any property as collateral in case he opted to flee the country.
“The defendant, Mr. Sears, is bailable, but at this time I am not satisfied with the package that has been presented here,” Justice Tomlinson said. “I am not inclined to release him.”
The security deposit would have been paid by Mr. Sears’s sister, Missy, and her husband, David, along with Mr. Sears’s friend, Gerta, according to the defendant’s attorneys. His sister and friend—their last names were not provided by the defense attorneys—were in attendance for Thursday’s court hearing and both declined to speak with a reporter.
Four other friends of Mr. Sears, and his nephew, were also in attendance and all declined to comment.
At his last court hearing, Mr. Sears, 73, was denied bail because a different federal judge deemed him to be a flight risk and a danger. He was preparing to move out of an apartment in East Moriches at the time of his arrest.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the charges against Mr. Sears, who is the founder of the Mission of Kindness, stem from him possessing hundreds of sexual images of identifiable minors. Investigators say he cut and pasted children’s faces onto the bodies of adults appearing in pornographic photos—a process known as “morphing”—and that he took photos of minors at events and fundraisers held on the East End. Mr. Sears would then take photos of his sexual collages, authorities said.
On Thursday, prosecutors shared for the first time that they do not believe Mr. Sears shared or electronically transmitted the altered images to others. They are, however, investigating a watermark on some of the altered images that is from an out-of-state paper company.
If the court had approved Thursday’s bail package, Mr. Sears would have agreed to be put under house arrest, according to his attorneys. They said he could stay at a senior citizen condominium complex in East Quogue; it was not clear if Mr. Sears owns the property in question as it was not offered as part of his bail package.
Both Mr. Barker and Mr. Signorelli declined to answer questions following the hearing, and Mr. Sears did not address the judge.
Mr. Sears is set to go before the judge again at noon on Friday in Central Islip. Justice Tomlinson also ordered that Mr. Sears agree to a mental health evaluation.
Prior to bail being denied, Allen Bode, an assistant U.S. attorney who is prosecuting the case, said Mr. Sears abused his Quogue-based nonprofit—which was supposed to assist families in need—by using it to make contact with children and take their photographs. They confirmed that one of the children they have identified in photos taken by Mr. Sears was a 14-year-old homeless girl who he previously provided financial assistance.
Additionally, prosecutors said investigators found a sheet of paper outlining the different kinds of sexual acts he wanted to perform with the same minor. She was the oldest child in the photographs recovered in his apartment, according to prosecutors.