Florida Keys Man Gets 20 Years for Child Porn

Florida Keys Man Gets 20 Years for Child Porn

 

A federal judge sentenced a Key Largo man this week to 20 years in prison for possessing and sharing graphic child pornographic images and videos. A jury convicted Russell Cullen, 39, on four child pornography counts in February. U.S. District Court Judge K. Michael Moore sentenced him Wednesday to not only two decades of prison time but also 15 years of supervised release following that.

During the trial, agents with Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI described how they used technology to pinpoint downloads of child pornography to Cullen’s IP address at two separate homes where he lived in July 2015 and again in November 2016. The images and movies were downloaded using peer-to-peer file sharing services.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security federal agents seized an Asus laptop and a Lacie external hard drive from Cullen’s home on March 15, 2016. The computer and hard drive contained images of “minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct,” according to the grand jury indictment. Testimony by federal agents and other expert witnesses during the trial collectively describe a horrific underground world where children as young as 4 years old are filmed engaging in sexual acts with other children as well as adults. Closing credits on one of the videos shown in court read, “Edited by Mummy.”

The consumers in the market for such twisted fare exchange the files using search terms like PTHC, an acronym for “pre-teen hard core,” according to William Wiltse, president of the Child Rescue Coalition in Boca Raton. His nonprofit creates computer technology used by federal and local law enforcement agencies to track online child porn activity.

“And then they start using those terms in those files to sort of refine or focus their search or the type of material they’re interested in,” Wiltse testified in February at the Key West federal court house. The search terms come up with titles so lewd and most would agree, universally offensive, that “Preview of PTHC, 4YO Sharon” is among the tamest agents found downloaded to Cullen’s IP address.

The Testimony

When Cullen took the stand, he admitted to having a serious pornography addiction for which he tried getting help through his pastor and which he would hide from girlfriends over the years. But he denied being interested in children or ever seeking child porn.

“No, I have never searched ‘kid’ or ‘child,’ ” Cullen responded to Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Langley Feb. 15 when asked if he ever typed the sort of terms Wiltse described in his testimony,

But he also said that throughout his years-long porn addiction, he would experience great shame after downloading thousands of X-rated files and viewing hours of photos and videos. He would not only repeatedly ask God for forgiveness, he would “reformat” his computer over and over again. It was during his exchange with Langley that he said sometimes child pornography inadvertently got included in the scores of adult porn he would download in bulk.

“Some things were so awful I would stop in my tracks and reform my computer right then and there, repent and pray to God that I never see that ever again,” he said. “You can’t un-see certain things.” But his demons would always come creeping back, he said. “The way my habit was — I think you call it a ritual — is I would put in ‘different sex acts’ and you get pages of data, select all of it and move it all to the download folder,” said Cullen, who is married and has a stepson.

He told Langley that listening to the Homeland Security Investigations and FBI agents discuss how they can retrieve items from computers that have been reformatted surprised him. “When you delete something and empty the recycling been, I had heard previously that maybe it’s still somewhere in your computer, but when you reformat that computer, it’s gone and nothing can be recovered,” he said. But the more Cullen spoke, the clearer the government’s case against him appeared. He seemingly fell into trap after trap under Langley’s questioning, admitting in a ham-handed way that there were likely dozens of child porn files on his computer at any given time, even though he found them “objectionable” and did not intentionally look for them or download them.

“So you’re saying that when when you downloaded on July 1, 2015, this title [a bondage video featuring a 10-year-old girl] that was by accident,” Langley asked.

“Absolutely,” Cullen responded.

Langley: “You don’t know how that happened?”

“I know how that happened,” Cullen said.

“You select all the files and that happens to be one of them,” Langley asked.

“Absolutely,” Cullen responded.

Information about where Cullen will serve his time was not available at press time.

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