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FBI Targets Child Porn Suspects

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Mar 3, 2004 2:00 PM PST    Text size: 
BALTIMORE -- The FBI on Wednesday announced it is expanding a program to seek out unidentified Internet child pornographers by disseminating photographs of alleged suspects on the Internet, television and in the print media.

With the new campaign, the Justice Department is working with the FBI to seek “John Doe” grand jury indictments of the unidentified suspects, a move that has rarely been done in child exploitation cases for fear of look-alikes mistakenly being arrested.

FBI agent Stacey Bradley of the agency’s Baltimore field office told reporters at a news conference that thousands of images of unknown adults and children are found on computers, in chat rooms on the Web, and elsewhere during child molestation probes.

Bradley said the FBI will publish photos of unidentified adults whose faces are visible on Internet pages. The photos will be edited to ensure no children are seen, she said.

“It’s still occurring every day to our children in the United States,” Bradley said. “They’re all over the Internet.”

The new drive to roundup Internet child pornographers is part of the FBI’s “Innocent Images” program to combat sexual exploitation of children on the Web.

The Innocent Images task force targets investigates all areas of the Internet and online services, including websites that post child pornography, news groups, Internet Relay Chat channels, file servers, bulletin board systems, and file transfer programs.

Through the second quarter of last year, FBI officials opened 9,366 cases, resulting in 2,569 convictions under the Innocent Images program since it began in 1995.

Bradley said the first two suspects arrested were identified after their photos aired recently on Fox-TV’s “America’s Most Wanted.”

John Walsh, host of “America’s Most Wanted,” joined Bradley and other FBI officials in announcing the new campaign.

“These people think they have had a leg up for years, that they can get away with this,” Walsh said. “This is the future.”

Last month, the TV program profiled a suspected child pornographer known only as “John Doe Jared,” later identified as Scott Hayden, a prisoner serving a 30-year sentence in Michigan City, Ind., for another child exploitation crime.

A second suspect’s photo aired last weekend. Thomas Richard Evered surrendered a short time later in Missoula County, Mont., after his sister spotted him on the show, FBI officials said.

Joan Irvine, executive director of Adult Sites Against Child Pornography (ASACP), said that in order to prosecute child pornographers, law enforcement officials need to identify the children in order for such images to be used in the courts.

“This is difficult since most of the child pornography images are not from the United States and were much younger at the time,” Irvine said. “That’s why ASACP’s work is so valuable. We can help identify the sites and people who are distributing these images, but there are underground pedophile rings that are the worst offenders.”

Irvine said that if the FBI can use new techniques to identify adults who are sexually abusing children, it could get closer to pedophile rings.

“I do have the same concerns as other people,” she said. “What happens if the technology does not work correctly and innocent people are mistakenly identified. This would ruin their lives.”

In related news, a former Washington state deputy prosecutor and district court judge was sentenced Tuesday to 27 months in prison after pleading guilty to possessing child pornography on his computer.

Ralph L. Perkins admitted in U.S. District Court documents that he became addicted to child pornography while researching the topic as part of his job as chief criminal prosecutor in Okanogan County.

“All I can tell you is I did this crime and I’m guilty,” Perkins, 54, said at his sentencing.

Perkins told FBI officials he initially downloaded images in work-related research while prosecuting child pornography cases, but that it later turned into sexual gratification.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Lister said that Perkins had taken the time to search for, download and store the images on separate computer disks. She said that federal laws have “zero tolerance” for possession of child pornography.

The FBI was called to investigate when images were found on Perkins’ home computer after police investigated a spousal rape allegation made by Perkins’ wife in last May. That probe resulted in a fourth-degree assault charge and prompted the federal prosecution, Lister said.

Lister said an examination of Perkins’ computer equipment turned up more than 10 images of children younger than 12 involved in sexually explicit conduct.

Perkins, who resigned from his $62,376 job as a deputy prosecutor, pleaded guilty last October to a single count of possessing child pornography. Perkins’ sentence includes completion of a sex offender treatment program and a ban on Internet access without permission while on probation after serving his sentence.

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