Child porn convictions yield 40-year sentence

Child porn convictions yield 40-year sentence

URBANA – A Danville man who possessed and produced child pornography will spend much of the rest of his life in prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael McCuskey on Thursday sentenced Richard A. Pruitt, 44, who last lived on Hegeler Lane, to 40 years in prison for production, advertising, receipt and possession of child pornography.

Pruitt pleaded guilty to those offenses in June, admitting that as far back as 2004, he bought and traded pornography via the Internet and U.S. mail. He could have received life.

Pruitt was serving a sentence of probation from Vermilion County for a 2008 conviction for indecent solicitation of a minor at the time of his arrest on the pornography charges in August 2009. He has been in custody since.

Pruitt's attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender John Taylor, read aloud a statement from Pruitt in which he called his actions "despicable and deplorable" and said he felt great remorse for the children who had been victimized in the production of the pornography, including Vermilion County boys he photographed several years ago.

"I have selfishly placed myself in the ranks of those predators," he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly Peirson said that in her six years of prosecuting child pornographers, Pruitt is the first man she's seen who acknowledged the harm his activity caused to the children portrayed. She noted that Pruitt pleaded guilty for an open sentence, exposing himself to life in prison rather than a definite number of years.

The judge had to give Pruitt an extra 10 years in prison because he committed the child-pornography offenses while he was registered as a sex offender as a result of his Vermilion County conviction.

He'll have to serve 85 percent of the sentence, and with credit for a year he's already served, he'll be eligible for release when he's 77.

In arguing for a sentence near the 35-year minimum, Peirson said that Pruitt had been the target of three different federal investigations since 1999. The one that ultimately led to his federal conviction was initiated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service last year.

According to the criminal complaint, inspectors learned that between 2004 and 2006, Pruitt bought 18 movies featuring young boys engaged in sex from a Los Angeles company and had them delivered to his home.

Using that information, an undercover postal inspector contacted Pruitt via e-mail in May 2009 offering to sell him videos "similar" to those he purchased earlier.

After a series of e-mails during which Pruitt sought reassurance that he wasn't dealing with "the FBI," Pruitt ordered three films purporting to feature young boys engaged in sex acts with other young boys.

Inspectors learned that when he did that, Pruitt was on probation in Vermilion County for indecent solicitation of a child for trying to have sex in 2006 with a 15-year-old boy in the bathroom of a Danville bowling alley where he worked as a bartender. Postal inspectors also found evidence that Pruitt was trying to use MySpace to trade child porn in January and February 2009.

In a search of his computer, postal inspectors found child pornography, which Pruitt admitted having accessed via the Internet since about 1999. He said he used his credit card to buy subscriptions to child-porn websites and showed inspectors pornographic materials stored at a relative's home.

Among his pictures were some he admitted taking of four young boys, ranging in age from 12 to 16, engaged in sex acts in Vermilion County. The complaint alleged he did that between December 2004 and September 2006.

Taylor argued that most men charged with child-pornography offenses insist on a trial so it was mitigating that Pruitt had spared jurors and court personnel the "horror of having to look at the pictures."

McCuskey said most potential jurors don't balk at judging a child pornographer "because they don't know what they're going to see."

He said Pruitt stood out among child pornographers because of his remorse and because he had "touched on all the levels of this despicable crime."

"However, I would be remiss if I was not aware of how difficult is it for people of your proclivities to totally end this obsession," the judge said.

Pruitt will have to register as a sex offender for life. All the materials seized from him will be forfeited to the government.

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