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.
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.
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.
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.