In a San Francisco federal courtroom a man pled guilty to possessing more than 600 images of child pornography, with some of the images showing minors being abused and in pain.
Robert Anthony Patton, 54, of Santa Rosa, California, pled guilty in a Northern California District federal court last week to one count of possession of child pornography, as part of a plea deal with prosecutors, thus avoiding more charges of receiving and distributing child pornography through peer-to-peer file-sharing computer software.
The charges came after an investigation by special agents from a cyber crimes group in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) section of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, leading to his arrest after a search warrant was executed at his home in an early morning raid.
The Honorable Judge Edward M. Chen noted that the sentencing guidelines give a range of more than four but less than seven years in state prison for this charge, although he will not be bound by this and can decide otherwise. Patton could potentially serve a maximum of ten years.
Judge Chen also said there is no option of parole on the table.
He asked if Patton was aware that he had more than 600 pornographic images of children in his possession, counting what prosecutors said they found on his computer, plus DVDs and thumbnail drives found in his home, which showed minors “engaged in sexual conduct” and images of “children being abused and in pain.”
“I didn’t know there were more than six hundred,” Patton responded. “I didn’t know there were that many.”
“Well videos are treated as 75 images each,” said Judge Chen. “If we use that calculation then there are more than 600 images.”
“Oh, well if you’re counting each video as seventy-five images then I can see how you get to more than six hundred,” said Patton.
In a federal indictment, a Homeland Security special agent with ICE, Michael W. Brown, reported that on April, 21, 2011, at 6:45 a.m., federal agents executed a search warrant on Patton’s property, where they found pornographic images of children on a laptop computer, on DVDs and computer thumb drives.
Brown stated that the warrant came out of an undercover investigation into the use of peer-to-peer file-sharing computer software in May of 2010, after an ICE agent in Bakersfield, California, identified a computer in Northern California that was suspected of distributing child pornography.
Peer-to-peer networks allow computer users to trade and download images and video files with Internet-connected computers throughout the world.
By investigating an Internet Protocol address, according to Brown, they were able to determine that the access account was registered to a specific physical street address in Santa Rosa.
In the indictment Brown further states that on the morning of the raid they found Patton with his wife and Patton “told his wife he knew ‘what this is about.’ And that it was about him looking at pictures of naked children on the Internet.”
The indictment alleges that Patton admitted to looking at images of children, generally between 10 and 14 years old, while they engaged in sexual acts and that he did this “every two or three days … usually in the bathroom.”
The indictment further alleges that while searching his bedroom, investigators found five handguns, one of which had previously been reported stolen, five rifles, some of which were loaded, and a Thompson submachine gun.
Federal agents also allege that they found 11 shrink-wrap plastic bags filled with a “green leafy substance that appeared to be marijuana,” and labeling on the outside of the packages indicated the bags totaled 900 grams.
They further allege finding a jumpsuit hanging in Patton’s closet with markings identifying it as a San Francisco Police Department SWAT uniform.
Patton is scheduled for sentencing on July 11, 2012.