Crime - Sacto 911

Former ARC student accused of distributing child porn, extortion

A former American River College theater arts student is in Sacramento County Jail accused of a variety of computer-related crimes, including distribution of child pornography and extortion.

Christian Brian Hirtzel, 21, was arrested Jan. 22 by Los Rios Community College District police. He was arraigned Jan. 26 on 18 felony counts, according to Sacramento Superior Court online records.

Hirtzel’s arrest followed a more than yearlong investigation by community college district police, who were assisted by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and the state Department of Justice, said Scott Crow, public information officer at American River College. The college released a brief statement Tuesday announcing Hirtzel’s arrest after receiving an inquiry from a news organization, Crow said. The statement was released the same day a story about the arrest appeared in The American River Current, the campus newspaper.

Crow said Hirtzel was a student at ARC from summer of 2012 to fall 2014. He said the police investigation began in November 2014, after complaints regarding Hirtzel were received from ARC students. The investigation involved forensic analysis of computers, according to Crow, but he said he did not know whether campus computers were used in the alleged crimes.

In addition to extortion and distributing child pornography, the charges against Hirtzel include communicating with a minor with the intent to commit a sex offense, knowingly using a minor to assist with obscene matter, and computer access without permission to defraud or control.

Crow said he believed the charges related to minors involved alleged offenses that occurred before Hirtzel enrolled at ARC and that were discovered during the investigation.

He said Hirtzel left ARC without receiving any certificate or degree.

Hirtzel’s bail is set at $100,000. His next court date, for a settlement conference, is April 12.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy