Child-porn cases filling courts

Suspect has two daughters, had a good job and was honorably discharged from the military.
Feb 28, 2013


Caught with images of child pornography on his laptop computer, a Waterville man used many of the same excuses in court last week that others in the same spot have argued.

He didn’t take the pictures. He wasn’t in the pictures. He didn’t know the children depicted in the pictures. They weren’t local kids.

It doesn’t matter, prosecutors say. Possessing child pornography is illegal, a felony.

Ryan Duvall’s attorney, John McMahon, told Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Gene Zmuda his client had no criminal history.

He had a good job. He was honorably discharged from the military. He has two daughters. He shouldn’t be in a courtroom convicted of five felonies that could land him in prison for 40 years.

“Your lawyer is absolutely right. You have a record that reflects that you shouldn’t be standing in front of me right now about to be sentenced on five second-degree felonies,” Judge Zmuda told Duvall at his sentencing. “But what’s interesting about these types of cases is that the individuals who stand before me on these cases are always like you. They’re always the ones that aren’t supposed to be here — gainfully employed, in a family, in a relationship, children, married.”

It doesn’t matter. Downloading child pornography is illegal, a felony.

In recent years, school teachers and police officers, middle school principals and welders such as Duvall have been caught with explicit images of children in sexual situations and convicted of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance, pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor, and similar charges.

They’re crimes that don’t seem to be abating despite the attention — the very embarrassing attention — they have brought to offenders.

“I think that we’re doing more [investigations] only because more people are aware that we are capable of doing them,” Toledo Police Det. Dave Morford said. “More jurisdictions are aware that it’s out there and what the capabilities are, and it’s not just us doing it.”

He and Det. Jim Dec work full-time in the department’s Computer Crimes Unit, and as members of the Northern Ohio Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force, both assist law enforcement agencies throughout northwest Ohio. Detective Morford estimated that 75 percent of the computer-related investigations they do involve child pornography.

“There are a lot of ways people get caught,” he said. “Sometimes people turn them in. Sometimes they’re sharing those illegal images on the Internet. … They may post them on a site where the site host reports them. There’s no one way that they’re getting caught.”

Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division for the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office, said people feel a false sense of security and anonymity downloading the images in the privacy of their home. “It makes you feel secure because you think no one knows you’re doing it,” he said.

While ideally, law enforcement would like to get to the source of the images, many of the pictures come from overseas and are difficult to trace, Detective Morford said. And while offenders may argue their crimes did not hurt anyone, police and prosecutors say there are indeed victims.

“The kids that are in these pictures have no way to fight back, no one to stand up for them,” Detective Morford said. “And I believe that when people download these images or trade these images, they create a market for it. If you take away the consumer, then hopefully the market will go away.”

Judge Zmuda told Duvall at his sentencing last week that the crime is a violent act.

“It’s violent because you violated the dignity of those children. You violated them when you took that photograph that shouldn’t have been there in the first place and made it your own,” he said. “That’s why it’s a crime. It’s as if you stabbed that child in the heart.”

While many offenders have gone to prison, Duvall, 43, was spared.

Judge Zmuda placed him on probation for five years, ordered him to spend six months in the Correctional Treatment Facility, to complete a sex offender treatment program, to have no access to social media such as Facebook, and to have only supervised access to the Internet. The judge said that if he doesn’t abide by those conditions, he will be sent to prison for three years for each of the offenses.

“Your lawyer will tell you that means you have 15 years hanging over your head — 15 years if you violate any of the terms of this community control,” Judge Zmuda said.


By Jennifer Feehan - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (MCT)

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