Sirens & Gavels

Internet fueling wide spread of child porn

WASHINGTON (AP) — The spread of child pornography, fueled by technology and the Internet, is outpacing efforts to combat it, the Justice Department said Monday in a report to Congress that promises more arrests, prosecutions and better coordination among federal, state and local authorities.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the distribution of child pornography, the number of images being shared online and violence against child victims all have increased. "Tragically, the only place we've seen a decrease is in the age of victims," Holder said in a speech at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Va.

The report, ordered by Congress in legislation approved two years ago, concedes that the market for child pornography continues to grow rapidly and determining its size is impossible. "The number of offenders accessing the images and videos and the quantity of images and videos being traded is unknown," the report said.

Creating or possessing images that depict the sexual abuse of children is illegal. There is no First Amendment protection for child pornography.

In announcing a national strategy for preventing child exploitation, Holder laid out several steps that he said would help authorities make progress:

— The U.S. Marshals Service will target the "top 500 most dangerous" sex offenders who have not registered with authorities in the states where they live.

— The Justice Department is creating a database intended to increase cooperation among authorities at all levels of government that investigate child porn cases.

— Thirty-eight new prosecutors will be hired for child porn cases.

The increased attention to fighting child pornography already has led to record numbers of prosecutions and tips. More than 8,600 people have been prosecuted at the federal level since October 2006. State and local authorities focused on the use of the Internet in child sexual exploitation reported that documented complaints of online enticement of children more than tripled from 2004 to 2008 and complaints of child prostitution rose more than 10 times.

The United States Attorney’s Office, together with federal, state and local agencies and task forces, continue to combine their efforts to combat child sexual exploitation in Idaho.

Project Safe Childhood (PSC) is a Department of Justice initiative launched in 2006 that aims to combat the proliferation of technology-facilitated sexual exploitation crimes against children. The threat of sexual predators soliciting children for physical sexual contact is well-known and serious; the danger of perpetrators who produce, distribute, and possess child pornography is equally dramatic and disturbing. Through a network of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and advocacy organizations, PSC coordinates efforts to protect our children by investigating and prosecuting online sexual predators.    

PSC is implemented through a partnership of U.S. Attorneys; Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces; federal partners, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the U.S. Marshal’s Service; advocacy organizations such as the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children; and state and local law enforcement officials in each U.S. Attorney’s district.

The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program (ICAC) was created to help federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement and prosecution agencies enhance their investigative response to offenders who use the Internet, online communication systems, or other computer technology to sexually exploit children. The program is comprised of 61 regional task forces throughout the country, with at least one in each state. It is funded by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The Idaho ICAC is a statewide coalition of 68 local, state and federal law enforcement and prosecution agencies, focused on apprehending and prosecuting individuals who use the Internet to criminally exploit children.  The creation of the Idaho ICAC was the first and most significant achievement of PSC in Idaho. The Idaho Attorney General’s Office was instrumental in organizing the many divergent agencies to created a working ICAC. For further information about the Idaho ICAC and a list of affiliate agencies, see http://icacidaho.org.

Recent Cases:

Frank Wolaver, 51, of Twin Falls, Idaho, was sentenced on April 8, 2010, to 120 months in federal prison, for two counts of possession of sexually explicit images of minors. The investigation began when ICE HSI agents developed information that Wolaver had purchased access to a commercial child pornography website. They recovered computer media containing over 600 sexually explicit images of minors, including scores of videos. Wolaver entered a guilty plea on November 9, 2009. Three days later, during a home visit by a U.S. Probation Officer, the officer discovered a laptop computer with Internet access, and hundreds of sexually explicit images of minors on the laptop. This new violation resulted in an additional charge of possession of child pornography, to which Wolaver pled guilty on April 8, 2010. The case was prosecuted by AUSA James Peters and was investigated by ICE HSI and United States Probation and Pretrial Services.

David Brechbiel, 42, of Weiser, Idaho, entered a guilty plea on April 26, 2010, to Interstate Transportation of a Minor to Engage in Unlawful Sexual Activity. The investigation showed that Brechbiel, who is a long-haul trucker, took an eleven-year-old female with him on a trip to Utah during the summer of 2009.  Brechbiel admitted that he engaged in sexual contact with the child during that trip.  Brechbiel also admitted having engaged in sexual contact with the same child on previous occasions in Idaho before the trip. The federal charge carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least ten years imprisonment, without parole, and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, a fine of  up to  $250,000. Sentencing is set for September 9, 2010. The case was prosecuted by AUSA James Peters and was investigated by the Ada County Sheriff's Department, Cascade Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Timothy Anderson, 30, of Meridian, Idaho, entered a guilty plea on April 27, 2010, to Attempted Sexual Exploitation of Children. This prosecution arose as the result of an ongoing Internet child exploitation investigation, conducted by the Ada County Sheriff’s Department. In late September 2009, Anderson made contact over the Internet, via an Idaho romance chat room, with a person who he believed to be a 15-year-old girl, but who was actually an Ada County Sheriff’s detective. Over the next five weeks, the online chats included dialogue that was explicitly sexual in nature. Anderson was arrested when he showed up to meet the purported girl. He had a digital camera and memory cards with him. Anderson admitted that he had intended to take pictures of the girl in various sexual poses. A search of Anderson’s home computers revealed child pornography images and video files. The federal charge carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least 15 years imprisonment, without parole, and a maximum sentence of 30 years, and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing is set for September 10, 2010. The case was prosecuted by AUSA James Peters and was investigated by the Ada County Sheriff's Department and members of Idaho’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Edward Vance, 52, of Meridian, Idaho, was sentenced on July 22, 2010, to 51 months in federal prison for possession of sexually explicit images of minors. Vance pleaded guilty to the charge in May 2010. In April 2006, the ICE Cyber Crime Center began investigating a criminal organization operating a commercial child pornography website. The investigation showed that Vance had purchased memberships to several websites known to be selling child pornography. On September 18, 2007, ICE HSI agents served a search warrant at Vance’s home in Meridian. Vance admitted possessing child pornography and led agents to several electronic discs, hidden behind some books. Vance admitted purchasing approximately ten to twelve memberships to illegal child pornography websites over the past seven or eight years. In addition to the discs, agents seized six computers and four hard drives. Vance stated he would take the hard drives and laptop computers on trips to Montana to view child pornography. Agents recovered computer media containing approximately 6,537 sexually explicit images and 555 child pornography videos. The case was prosecuted by AUSA James Peters and was investigated by ICE HSI.

Gerald Christian, 70, of Salmon, Idaho, was sentenced on May 25, 2010, to 24 months in federal prison for possession of sexually explicit images of minors. Christian pleaded guilty to the charge in December 2009. In May 2007, a search warrant was obtained for Christian’s home in Salmon, Idaho. Christian told agents that they would find child pornography on his computer and that he had been viewing it for about ten years. A computer and hard drive were found, containing sexually explicit images of minors. For over thirty years, Christian had volunteered in various children’s programs in the Salmon area, including freestyle wrestling for children in kindergarten through fourth grade and the After School Promise program.  Christian received an award in 2003 from the Idaho Children’s Trust Fund for his voluntary service to children. The case was prosecuted by AUSA Michelle Mallard and was investigated by ICE HSI and the Idaho State Police.

James Watt, 38, of Mountain Home, Idaho, was sentenced on June 1, 2010, to 68 months in federal prison for possession of sexually explicit images of minors. Watt pleaded guilty to the charge in February 2010. In April 2006, the ICE Cyber Crime Center began investigating a criminal organization operating a commercial child pornography website. The investigation showed that on October 12, 2006, Watt had purchased a membership to a child pornography website.  On January 29, 2008, ICE HSI agents served a search warrant at Watt’s residence in Mountain Home. As a result of the search, numerous items were seized and determined to contain sexually explicit images of minors, including three computers and two hard drives. Agents recovered computer media containing approximately 2,590 sexually explicit images and 113 child pornography videos.  More than 500 of the images depicted prepubescent minors in explicit sexual acts, including sadistic images of children enduring painful and humiliating abuse. The case was prosecuted by AUSA James Peters and was investigated by ICE HSI.

Dennis Burke, 52, of West Virginia, was sentenced on July 7, 2010, to 144 months in federal prison for transportation of sexually explicit images of minors. Burke pled guilty to the charge in February 2010. In March 2009, the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office received a call about a physical altercation between Burke and another individual at a motel room in Sandpoint, Idaho.  While investigating the incident, police were told that Burke showed a witness photos of naked children on his laptop computer.  Police arrested Burke on child pornography charges and seized his computer.  Several days later, FBI agents interviewed Burke.  He confessed to having over 200,000 sexually explicit images of children on his computer, a fact later confirmed by FBI forensic analysis.  Burke told the agents that he fled West Virginia after making bail on similar charges in that state and had been traveling throughout the country until the time of his arrest. The case was prosecuted by AUSA Mike Mitchell and was investigated by the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Scott Henry, 25, of Castlegar, British Columbia, Canada, was criminally charged on July 13, 2010, for possession of sexually explicit images of minors.  He is a United States citizen.  On May 3, 2010, in Boundary County, Idaho, Henry illegally crossed into the United States from Canada driving his vehicle on a forest road.  He cut a wire fence at the border and drove into the United States until he came to a locked cattle-guard gate.  A U.S. Border Patrol agent responded to the location because the vehicle Henry was driving triggered a sensor at the border.  The Border Patrol agent confronted Henry about his illegal entry in the United States and searched his vehicle.  Inside the vehicle the agent found a running laptop computer which contained child pornography files.  Agents also found a number of computer hard-drives.  The defendant was arrested.  A search warrant was obtained and agents found over 100 images of child pornography and 57,617 images of child erotica on computers and hard drives.  The case is being prosecuted by AUSA Mike Mitchell and was investigated by ICE HSI. An indictment is a means of charging a person with criminal activity.  It is not evidence.  The person is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Pony Jackson, 40, of Terreton, Idaho, entered a guilty plea on February 17, 2010, to possession of sexually explicit images of minors. The FBI went to Jackson's residence in Terreton, Idaho, to serve an arrest warrant out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montana on the charge of possession of child pornography. At that time, Jackson was discovered to be in possession of more child pornography. After serving a sentence of three years on the Montana charges, Jackson was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Idaho with another charge of possession of child pornography. Prior to coming into Idaho’s  custody but after serving the Montana sentence, Jackson was convicted at trial in Clark County, Idaho, of two counts of lewd conduct with a child under 16 for molesting a four-year old girl in 1992. Jackson was sentenced to ten to twenty years on those charges. Sentencing in the federal case is set for August 10, 2010. The case is being prosecuted by AUSA Michelle Mallard and was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Juan Granados, Jr., 30, of Nampa, Idaho, was sentenced on July 26, 2010, to 120 months in federal prison for possession of child pornography. Granados pled guilty to the charge in March 2010. In August 2008, a probation and parole officer conducted a search of Granados’s residence, pursuant to an ongoing investigation. A mini cd/disc was found and a forensic exam revealed images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Granados admitted that he had downloaded the child pornography from the internet to his computer and saved them to the disc several years earlier. The case was prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson and was investigated by the Nampa Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Significant cases from the past:

Jerry L. Banks, Sr., 57, of Boise, Idaho, was sentenced in April 2007 to life in prison plus 60 years after being convicted of producing a pornographic video of a 2-year-old and sharing it on the Internet with a sex offender in Canada. Banks received the additional 60 years for transporting child pornography between Boise and a person in California whom he thought was a 12-year-old girl, and possessing child pornography on eight separate storage media. Since he was already a registered sex offender and was convicted of producing child pornography, the life sentence was mandatory.  He previously served 12 years in Idaho state prison for molesting an 11-year-old boy and 12 months in Washington state for a 1986 child abuse conviction. The investigation began in mid-May 2005 when investigators in Edmonton, Alberta, arrested a Canadian citizen for child exploitation offenses.  That resulted in an international probe which has since produced more than 60 arrests in Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Europe and Australia, and more than 20 children being rescued from situations in which they were being sexually exploited. The case was investigated jointly by the Edmonton Police Services in Alberta, Canada, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the assistance of the High Technology Investigative Unit of the U.S. Department of Justice, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.  The case was prosecuted by AUSA James Peters and Alexandra Gelber, a trial attorney from the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Lorrie Elmer Mecham, 70, of Mountain Home, Idaho, was sentenced in November 2009 to 240 months in prison for receiving and possessing sexually explicit images of minors.  Mecham was convicted by a federal jury in June 2009 after a four-day trial. The investigation began in August 2007, when Mecham’s wife became suspicious that he was using his computer to obtain child pornography from the Internet.  After finding a cooler filled with hundreds of floppy discs and CDs hidden in the crawl space of their home, she contacted Mountain Home Police, who found sexually explicit images of children on one of the discs. The case was originally charged in Elmore County, but after the two computers belonging to Mecham were examined and found to contain tens of thousands of child pornography images, some dating back to 1999, federal authorities were contacted and the FBI joined the investigation.  FBI analysts examined more than 600 discs from the cooler and other discs found by Mountain Home Police during a search of the defendant’s home, and found that many of the discs contained sexually explicit images of minors, ranging from toddlers to teens.  The FBI investigation showed that Mecham has a long history of child sexual exploitation, including a conviction for child molestation in Georgia in 1987, in which he admitted molesting two girls, ages seven and nine. The case was prosecuted by AUSA’s Aaron Lucoff and James Peters and was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Mountain Home Police Department.

William Edward Stevens, Jr., 53, of Melbourne, Florida, was sentenced in April 2009 to 72 months in federal prison for Use of Interstate Facilities to Transmit Information About a Minor, and Conspiracy to Use a Minor to Distribute a Controlled Substance. This prosecution arose after Moscow Police and the Idaho Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force conducted an investigation showing that for approximately three years, Stevens had communicated from his Florida home with a teenage girl from Moscow, Idaho, and engaged in inappropriate sexual activity with her over the Internet.  The girl was between the ages of 12 and 15 years of age and was being home schooled. The investigation showed that Stevens met the victim in an online chat room and misrepresented himself to the minor victim as a law enforcement officer, which he is not.  Stevens also misrepresented himself as being younger than he is, and sent the minor victim photos of his 21-year-old son, and claimed they were of him.  The chats included dialogue and behavior that was explicitly sexual in nature. The drug charge came as a result of Stevens encouraging the victim to secretly give her mother Ambien, a prescription sleeping medication, so he and the teenager could have time together to engage in online sexual activity and sex talk. The case was prosecuted by AUSA James Peters and was investigated by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Moscow Police Department.

Bobby Moon, 41, of Pocatello, Idaho, was sentenced in September 2008 to 120 months in federal prison for possessing child pornography. This sentence will follow the three to 14 year prison sentence Moon is currently serving for lewd conduct with a minor from a state court conviction. The federal case stemmed from a report to the Pocatello Police Department by Moon’s adult stepson, who saw child pornography on Moon’s computer.  Moon admitted to Pocatello Police Department detectives that he possessed images and movies of children and infants being sexually abused.  A forensic investigation of Moon’s computers uncovered thousands of images and 94 movie files of child exploitation, as well as hundreds of emails sent with child pornography attached.  The investigation also uncovered years of sexual abuse inflicted by Moon on his stepchildren.  The case was prosecuted by AUSA Michelle Mallard and was investigated by the Pocatello Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Jason Fox, 35 of Burley, Idaho, was sentenced in January 2010 to 120 months in federal prison for possession of sexually explicit images of minors. Fox was in possession of child porn in print, on discs and on his hard drive.  The investigation into the child pornography possession led to the discovery that Fox had molested a young female relative.  Fox was sentenced in Cassia County for lewd conduct with a minor and is currently serving a sentence on that charge. The federal case was prosecuted by AUSA Michelle Mallard and was investigated by ICE HSI. 

Indian Country cases:

Mervin Fisher (approximately 65 years of age) was indicted in May 2009 for abusive sexual contact.  The indictment alleges that Fisher inappropriately touched a 14-year old girl.  Fisher has filed a notice of intent to plead guilty, and the Court has scheduled a plea hearing for August 25. The case is being prosecuted by AUSA Jack Haycock and was investigated by the Fort Hall Police Department.

Clyde Osborne (approximately 21 years of age) was indicted in May 2010 for aggravated sexual abuse. The indictment alleges that Osborne forcibly raped a seventeen year old at Fort Hall. Osborne is set for trial on September 7. The case is being prosecuted by AUSA Jack Haycock and was investigated by the Fort Hall Police Department. An indictment is a means of charging a person with criminal activity.  It is not evidence.  The person is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Buford Nipwater, 49, of Fort Hall, Idaho, a member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe, was sentenced in September 2009 to one year of incarceration and five years of supervised release for Sexual Contact with a Minor. In a delayed disclosure case, Fort Hall Police detectives found that Nipwater had molested a ten year old female relative five years earlier. The case was prosecuted by AUSA Michelle Mallard and was investigated by the Fort Hall Police Department.

Darwin Dick, Jr., 35, a Shoshone-Paiute tribal member from the Duck Valley Reservation, entered a guilty plea on June 29, 2010, to failure to register as a sex offender. In April 2005, Dick was sentenced to federal prison for 37 months, followed by 15 years supervised release, for two counts of sexual abuse of a minor. Dick was released from custody in August 2009 and he registered with the Idaho Sex Offender Registry. In December 2009, Dick failed to comply with the required four-month address verification. In January 2010, Dick moved from his residence in Nampa and failed to update his registration after he moved. Sentencing is set forSeptember 21, 2010. The case is being prosecuted by AUSA James Peters and was investigated by the U.S. Marshal’s Service.




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