Ronald T. Garney – Pleads Guilty Child Pornography

“He told the officers that he essentially lived in two worlds – the world where he was a teacher and referee, and the world where he was viewing and collecting child pornography”

“In the months that followed the police search of Garney’s apartment, Cahillane said investigators identified all 21 of the children pictured in his collection.”

NORTHAMPTON – Ronald T. Garney, a former Amherst teacher who collected hundreds of digital photos and movies of children as young as 4 engaged in sex acts, pleaded guilty Dec. 20 to 11 counts of possessing child pornography.

Each offense carries a potential sentence of up to five years in state prison. A sentencing hearing in the case will be held Feb. 11.

Garney, 60, of 35 Cottage St., was one of many around the United States to come under scrutiny during a federal investigation into a Web site purveying child pornography from around the world. He was arrested in November 2006, after police searched his apartment and found hundreds of images and videos of child pornography. None of the children were local children, authorities have said.

Garney had been free on $10,000 cash bail since shortly after his arrest. But after accepting Garney’s guilty plea, Judge Mary-Lou Rup revoked Garney’s bail and ordered him sent to jail pending the sentencing hearing. In the meantime, the probation department will conduct an evaluation of Garney, which Rup requested to help guide her sentencing decisions.

Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Michael A. Cahillane has asked that Garney be sentenced to three to five years in state prison, followed by 10 years’ probation. Defense attorney Meade G. Burrows has recommended his client be given a suspended jail sentence and serve five years’ probation.

Formerly a ninth-grade earth science teacher at Amherst Regional High School, Garney had been teaching in the district since 1984. He was president of the Amherst-Pelham Education Association from 1998 to 2000, and was also a referee for youth sports.

After he was first charged in November 2006, Garney was placed on paid administrative leave from the school district. He resigned the following month.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2004 began an child pornography investigation called Project Watchdog. During the operation, according to Cahillane, federal investigators determined Garney had purchased a subscription to a Web site called “Pedoland,” also called “The Children Porno Club.”

ICE investigators presented their evidence to Amherst police in August 2006. Police carefully verified that the email address, credit card and PayPal account used to purchase the subscription belonged to Garney, and that he was the sole occupant of his Cottage Street apartment, Cahillane said.

On Nov. 27, 2006, Amherst police and a member of the state police Computer Forensics Unit searched Garney’s home, and Garney, there at the time, admitted to viewing and downloading child pornography. He showed investigators several CDs containing photographs and videos, Cahillane said.

Cahillane said Garney told investigators in a later interview that he had been viewing child pornography for about 10 years, and purchased his first subscription to a child pornography Web site about five years previous. He admitted viewing child pornography as recently as a day before police searched his apartment, Cahillane said.

“He told the officers that he essentially lived in two worlds – the world where he was a teacher and referee, and the world where he was viewing and collecting child pornography,” Cahillane said.

Cahillane said the children depicted in Garney’s collection of photographs and movies range in age from 4 to 17. They are pictured performing sex acts with each other and with adults, he said. Under state law, possessing pornographic material depicting anyone under the age of 18 is illegal.

In the months that followed the police search of Garney’s apartment, Cahillane said investigators identified all 21 of the children pictured in his collection. It was a cooperative effort by Amherst police, ICE and the FBI, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and overseas law enforcement agencies.

The images and videos trace back to Angleton, Texas, the Chicago and Phoenix areas within the United States, as well as to Britain, Holland, Denmark, Germany, France and Switzerland, Cahillane said.

Investigators learned that in at least some of the cases, the images were created by the parents or step-parents of the children depicted, Cahillane said. The creators of all the pictures and videos have all been prosecuted on child abuse and pornography charges in their respective countries, Cahillane said.

Motion to dismiss

In August, Garney’s defense attorney, Meade G. Burrows, sought to have the charges against his client dismissed on the grounds that the search warrant was illegal.

Amherst police Detective Sgt. Christopher Pronovost applied to an Eastern Hampshire District Court clerk magistrate for the search warrant using a 33-page affidavit. The affidavit has been sealed, but Burrows summarizes it in his motion.

According to the summary, an ICE forensics team determined Garney had visited the child pornography Web site on March 2, 2005, and made a $79.95 purchase under the pseudonym Alex Yarne, according to the summary. Garney canceled a second purchase July 24, 2005.

The ICE investigators also concluded Garney had made two other purchases from similar Web sites Aug. 23 and 25, 2002, though further details are not given in affidavit, according to Burrow’s summary.

In his motion to dismiss, Burrows argued that the information ICE had collected on Garney was “stale,” and said the fact that Garney canceled the July 2005 payment was evidence he had ceased collecting child pornography.

Burrows also sought to suppress, or remove from the evidence, statements Garney made to investigators while his apartment was being searched.

The motion was ultimately denied in September by Hampshire Superior Court Judge Bertha D. Josephson, who ruled the warrant was legal. Josephson wrote Pronovost had presented solid evidence that Garney had downloaded child pornography and that it was reasonable to assume he still possessed the child pornography when the warrant was issued. Burrows appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court for a review of Josephson’s decision, but this request was also denied.

Published in: on December 29, 2007 at 5:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

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