Under his bed, 25-year-old Bernie Sherry kept a handwritten notebook with an entry titled "Plans for Operation Young."
An FBI agent testified yesterday that it was a plot to get little girls who played in the dollhouse near his parents' Bethel Park house alone so he could rape one of them.
The testimony was part of a federal detention hearing for Sherry, who is charged with arranging to have sex with the 2-year-old daughter of a Reading woman who sold the little girl to men for sex and peddled pornographic pictures of her.
FBI Agent Eric Fiterman, who participated last week in a search of the Sherry home in the 3200 block of Eastview Road, said Sherry kept a detailed record of the girls in his neighborhood, complete with their names and descriptions of their clothes and how their bodies were developing.
"We've confirmed that these girls live in the neighborhood," said Fiterman. "They are neighbors of the Sherrys."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tina Miller, describing the log as "extremely scary," presented it to show that Sherry should be locked up while awaiting trial.
But U.S. Magistrate Judge Amy Hay rejected her request and decided to release him to his parents on electronic monitoring. She also ordered him to stay away from children and off the Internet.
Sherry will remain in custody while the U.S. attorney's office files an appeal today. He'll stay in jail at least until another hearing is held, probably next week.
"We clearly have a case where Mr. Sherry is a danger to the community," Miller argued. "We have Mr. Sherry spending an inordinate amount of time watching the children in his neighborhood."
She said that in addition to keeping the notebook, visiting 111 child porn sites, collecting child pornography and buying soiled children's underwear on the Internet, Sherry worked in the Baby Depot department of Burlington Coat Factory and had been seen walking the halls of the preschool where his mother, Carol, works.
Sherry's lawyer, R. Damien Schorr, said his client is not a threat. The only dates on the log were from 1999, he said, and argued that there is no evidence that Sherry ever molested children. Further, although neighbors have recently contacted the FBI about Sherry, no one apparently ever filed a complaint with local police.
Schorr also pointed out that the FBI has yet to find evidence that Sherry actually abused the 2-year-old Reading girl, although an e-mail exchange between him and the girl's mother showed him trying to arrange a meeting for sex.
Fiterman said other men did travel to Reading to have sex with the girl and the mother, identified in court records only as "Jane Doe," but agents don't yet know if Sherry is what child sex crimes investigators call a "traveler."
"Just the fact that they talked about it does not make it a crime," said Schorr. "There are no victims here."
As it stands, Sherry is charged with possession and receipt of child pornography and "coercion and enticement," an offense that covers both actual molestation and the attempt to molest a child.
Federal agents arrested Sherry last week at his house, during which Sherry's father, Jack, explained that "this has happened before." Fiterman testified that Sherry said his father caught him downloading child porn years before and told him to delete it, which he said he does as soon as he gets it.
But Fiterman said an initial search by state police turned up many child porn images, and a forensic examination of Sherry's computer and diskettes is under way.
According to an affidavit, Sherry was among several men who received child porn of the 2-year-old from the Reading woman.
The affidavit includes a transcript of a chat room conversation in February between the woman and Sherry, who used the screen name rfk12_00. He chose that name because he is apparently also fascinated with the Kennedy family, and many of his computer files were about them.
In the e-mail, Jane Doe says she is "looking for a guy to join my 3 yo and i" and rfk12_00 replies "cool" and asks where and when the encounter can take place.
The girl is actually 2 and will turn 3 this month.
The case began in February when state police received information about the woman during an investigation of a sex offender in Waco, Texas.
When the FBI interviewed Jane Doe in March, she said she received wired money from men for images of child pornography and arranged online for sexual encounters with the girl at her home.
On one occasion, she and her daughter traveled to Western Pennsylvania so a man could have sex with the girl.
Agents haven't determined if Sherry was that man, Fiterman said.