FBI says it broke up child pornography ring

10 convicted

People produced, traded videos showing beatings of their own children

March 12, 2002|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - The FBI has smashed a child pornography ring involving 10 people who traded and produced videos that depicted beatings of children - some of them their own - authorities said yesterday.

The FBI investigation, which also involved postal inspectors and Canadian authorities, lasted nearly two years and identified 12 children, ages 4 to 14, who appear in the videos. More arrests are expected.

The 10 people arrested so far have all pleaded guilty in federal courts around the country. The ring, which spanned seven states and Canada and involved a brutal form of spanking, is the latest in a growing list of child pornography networks that have flourished with the use of the Internet and have become an increasing concern for federal law enforcement officials.

"I've been in this a long, long time, and we've always seen isolated cases, but they were just that - isolated," said U.S. Postal Inspector Raymond C. Smith, who helped run the investigation. Smith said that since the popularization of the Internet, such activity has become more organized, particularly using online chat rooms.

"It wrenches your heart," said Michael Heimbach, chief of the FBI's Crimes Against Children Unit. "It's very disturbing to all of us in law enforcement."

Agents were tipped off to the network after an assistant school principal from Montreal was arrested for a second time in May 2000.

When Canadian authorities arrested the man, David Wadsworth, they found videotapes of children being spanked with whips and paddles. They also confiscated a telephone bill listing calls to David Lynn Patterson, 41, a computer programmer from Dalton, Ga.

When authorities pulled a record of Patterson's driver's license, they recognized his photo from the confiscated videos.

Patterson then led authorities to others in the ring. He pleaded guilty to producing and distributing child pornography involving four children, three of them his own. He was sentenced in November to 10 years in prison.

His former wife, Shirley Blaney, 31, also of Dalton, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual exploitation and is serving two years.

Seven other people have also pleaded guilty to federal charges.

Jim Nain, a railroad worker from Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., was sentenced to 10 years in prison in February 2001 for producing and distributing videos in which he was a participant.

Gordon Murray, 51, an elementary school teacher from Brewton, Ala., was sentenced to five years last spring for editing, possessing and distributing the videos.

Richard Roll, 58, a nurse and former Boy Scout leader from Jamestown, N.Y., was sentenced in August to 10 years for producing videos using his own children that he touted to members of the ring as the "Rick Roll Videos," authorities said.

Donald Fletcher, a retired chauffeur from Lehigh Acres, Fla., and John Francis McDonnell, a bank security guard from Mineola, N.Y., both pleaded guilty in September to distributing child pornography. They have not yet been sentenced.

George Kelly, 63, a Catholic Sunday school teacher from Lombard, Ill., who pleaded guilty to distributing and possessing the videos in February, has not been sentenced.

Authorities said they believe they caught one of the last men in the ring when they knocked on his door in June 2001. Officials said the man, David Bradner, 38, of Vanceburg, Ky., fired a shotgun into his computer hard drive three times, apparently in an effort to destroy evidence, as authorities were entering his home.

His two children, both young teenage boys, were inside the house when authorities broke through the door.

Bradner was charged with six counts of child endangerment, destruction of evidence and coercion of minors. As part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, he is expected to receive 20 years in prison when he is sentenced March 22.

Authorities say one of Bradner's children suffered permanent injuries from years of beatings.

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