(Editor's Note: The following story contains details of charges and accusations involving child molestation.)

Sutter County's jail commander has been accused of masturbating while watching a young female relative have intercourse with anti-porn activist Donny Pauling.

The Sutter County District Attorney's Office on Thursday charged Lewis McElfresh Jr. with two counts of felony child molestation, willful child cruelty, burglary and misdemeanor charges of annoying or molesting a minor and indecent exposure.

One of the charges says McElfresh, a sheriff's captain, arranged a meeting with a minor for the purpose of exposing her genitals or engaging in lewd and lascivious acts. The meeting allegedly occurred between Aug. 1 and Dec. 15 of this year.

He is also charged with a felony for supplying a firearm to a person prohibited from owning a firearm.

McElfresh, 57, appeared Thursday in Sutter County Superior Court in a striped jail uniform with "Yolo County Inmate" stenciled across the back. McElfresh, though booked into his own jail, was moved to Yolo County to avoid conflicts of interest.

Judge Brian Aronson kept McElfresh's bail at $5 million out of concern for public safety.

Court documents said the alleged victim's boyfriend confronted McElfresh in a recorded conversation.

According to a declaration in support of bail enhancement, McElfresh can be heard saying, "I know it was really bad." And he also said, "I have a problem."

Also, during the investigation, authorities were told McElfresh said if he were to get in legal trouble, he's "going to take out a lot of people," according to the declaration.

McElfresh did not enter a plea. Defense attorney Jesse Santana requested the arraignment be continued so he could file a motion to recuse the Sutter County District Attorney's Office from the case.

District Attorney Amanda Hopper said she spoke with the California Attorney General's Office, which did not see a conflict of interest.

McElfresh was arrested while working at the Sheriff's Department on Tuesday afternoon by Yuba City police. The Sheriff's Department learned of allegations about McElfresh last week.

"An in-depth investigation has yielded significant evidence giving foundation to the charges we filed," Hopper said.

Pauling was arrested two weeks ago and was charged with statutory rape of a different victim. He was moved to Colusa County Jail after investigators learned of allegations involving a Sheriff's Department employee's relative.

Pauling, 40, a self-described former porn-producer and anti-porn activist, has not been charged for having sex with McElfresh's relative.

Hopper said both investigations are ongoing.

Santana said he and his client will fight all the charges, and McElfresh loves the relative and would never harm her.

CONTACT reporter Monica Vaughan at 749-4783 and on Twitter @ADCrimeBeat.


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