Mid gets 5 years in porn case

Images of children were found on computer at Naval Academy dorm

August 06, 2008|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,Sun reporter

WASHINGTON - A midshipman was sentenced to five years in prison yesterday after pleading guilty to storing child pornography on a computer in his Naval Academy dormitory.

Michael S. Pollard, 23, also pleaded guilty to storing child porn on a laptop computer at his parents' home in Florida and making a false statement to authorities. The porn was found by a roommate who went to use Pollard's computer in early 2007.

Pollard, wearing a Navy white uniform, told the presiding judge that he downloaded some of the porn, including hundreds of images and videos of prepubescent boys, while attending the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island.

As his parents sat in the front row of the military courtroom at the Washington Navy Yard, Pollard tearfully thanked them for their support and apologized for the crimes.

"Over the years, I've led a double life," said Pollard, an aeronautical engineering major who aspired to be a Navy jet pilot. "I simply had a terrible illness that I couldn't handle on my own."

But prosecutors pointed to the "cruelty" of the images and their volume - more than 1,000 pictures and videos were found on the two computers and an external hard drive - in urging a harsh sentence. "They're being turned into sex slaves," Navy Lt. Justin Henderson said, referring to a video showing three boys ages 9 and 10 having sex.

The presiding judge, Navy Capt. Bruce Mackenzie, sentenced Pollard to six years in prison, but one year will be suspended under a plea agreement. Pollard was also ordered dismissed from the Navy and will likely be required to reimburse the government more than $100,000 for his taxpayer-funded education. He had been scheduled to graduate from the academy last spring.

The sentence must be approved by the convening authority, the Naval Academy's superintendent, who has the power to reduce the sentence but not increase it.

Pollard's civilian attorney, Larry N. Burch, called the sentence "inordinately harsh."

"That's a sentence someone gets who's a predator, not a voyeur," Burch said, adding that Pollard never tried to come into contact with children.

Throughout hours of testimony during the sentencing phase yesterday, defense attorneys depicted Pollard as a well-intentioned young man suffering from a debilitating sexual disorder, paraphilia, and was afflicted with uncontrollable urges to watch young boys having sex.

Fred Berlin, a clinical psychologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital who specializes in sexual disorders, compared Pollard to an alcoholic. The Internet, he said, was like a keg of beer for Pollard.

Pollard has suffered from paraphilia since age 12 or 13, the doctor said.

"The behavior is being driven by a powerful, biologically based craving," Berlin said. "He is so driven it's almost as though it's tunnel vision."

"He did not believe he was hurting children," he added, saying Pollard seemed to be a "very decent young man."

He said there was nothing in his childhood to point to a cause of the disorder.

Pollard's father, Michael Pollard Sr., testified that he also suffered from an addiction to porn, and his mother compared her son's problem to her own addiction to alcohol. She said she has been sober for five years.

Both parents their son was a polite man who wanted to be a pilot.

"I know my son's heart, and in my opinion, he's not a criminal," said Michael Pollard Sr., a retired master chief with the Navy. "Michael doesn't have a hurtful bone in his body."

As the sentence was read, Michael and Marjorie Pollard dabbed their eyes as their son stood quietly. Minutes later outside the building, a white van waited to take him to the Norfolk Naval Brig in Virginia.


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