TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) — The owner of a home where comedian Rosie O’Donnell’s teenage daughter was found last week sent the girl a nude photo, according to a criminal complaint released Monday.
Steven Sheerer, 25, is accused of having inappropriate online communications with 17-year-old Chelsea O’Donnell. He “knowingly distributed obscene images to a minor … specifically a nude photo over the Internet,” the complaint said.
The Barnegat man made his initial appearance in state Superior Court in Toms River on Monday afternoon, but did not enter a plea. He faces charges of child endangerment and distribution of obscenity to a minor. Bail remained at $40,000 cash, but a bail review was scheduled for Tuesday.
Ocean County prosecutors say he faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
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Sheerer’s attorney, Robert Tarver, said he has notified prosecutors that he plans to present evidence that will show his client is not guilty. He declined to provide specific details.
“We believe we have strong evidence that there was no endangering here, and that it will show that what has been reported and what his role supposedly was is completely false,” Tarver said.
Sheerer was arrested Friday night at his home. Chelsea O’Donnell was found at the home Aug. 18, hours after her mother posted a statement online saying the girl had left home in South Nyack, New York, a week earlier.
Authorities have said police went to the home and the person answering the door initially did not want to reveal Chelsea’s presence. Police said they told the occupant they would not leave until she came out; Chelsea then appeared and willingly left with police.
Sheerer’s arrest came several hours after authorities obtained the girl’s cellphone with her mother’s consent, prosecutors said. They found “inappropriate communications” over the last several weeks between Sheerer and Chelsea, prosecutors said.
Authorities seized a computer and other digital equipment at Sheerer’s home when they executed a search warrant.
Court records show Sheerer pleaded guilty to drug offenses in separate cases in 2012 and 2013. In each case, he was sentenced to two years of probation.