Berlin Man Sentenced To 30 Years In Child Porn Case
BBERLIN - A Berlin man was sentenced to 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole in U.S. District Court on Wednesday for sexually exploiting a minor to produce child pornography, bringing closure to a case that originated in Berlin and traveled all the way around the world to Australia and back.
Roderick Gene Parks, 42, of Berlin, in June pleaded guilty in federal court to sexually exploiting a minor to produce child pornography after a complaint filed in Australia back in November 2006 about the content of Internet images led to a multi-national effort to track him back to Worcester County. On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced Parks to 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole, followed by a lifetime of supervision upon his release. Blake also ordered that Parks must register as a sex offender upon his release from prison and have no contact with minors.
According to court documents, on Nov. 8, 2006, Australian Federal Police received a complaint from viewers on an Australian Internet content host, alleging a male child was being assaulted on a webcam by an adult male later identified as Parks. A multi-national investigation, that began with Australian federal authorities and ended with their counterparts in the U.S., revealed that on Nov. 7, 2006, Parks produced and sent by webcam over the Internet disturbing live images of him molesting an 11-year-old boy from his home in Berlin.
The child was in custody of Parks, who was watching him after school while his mother worked. The minor boy and his mother had been living with Parks since the previous August, according to court documents.
After receiving the complaint from viewers, the website provided screen captures of the live broadcast showing the assault to the Australian Federal Police Online Child Sex Exploitation team. The website also provided Australian police with the log-on date and time, the IP address and a profile of Parks garnered from his user's account including his photograph and the fact he lived in Berlin.
Australian police were able to determine Parks' IP address was assigned to a provider in Reston, Va. Australian Federal Police forwarded the information to the ICE Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Va., which participates in the Virtual Global Task Force along with several other similar agencies around the world. The Virtual Global Task Force was established in 2003 to build an effective international partnership of law enforcement agencies to protect children from online child abuse.
The ICE Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax forwarded the information about Parks to the Baltimore ICE office, which verified through further investigation that Parks was the man who sent the images. The Baltimore ICE office, with the assistance of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Berlin Police Department and the Worcester County Bureau of Investigation (WCBI) arrested Parks at his home in Berlin on Dec. 1, 2006.
In June, Parks pleaded guilty to sexually exploiting a minor to produce child pornography, a crime for which the minimum sentence is 15 years in prison and the maximum sentence is 30 years without the possibility of parole. Sentencing was deferred until this Wednesday, when Judge Blake sentenced Parks to the latter.
Blake handed down the maximum sentence in the case despite pleas by Parks' attorney, Paul D. Hazlehurst, to sentence him closer to the lower end of the spectrum. Hazlehurst said Parks pleaded guilty to 'avoid causing additional anguish for the child and his family,' and the defense attorney read into the record a written statement of apology prepared by his client, which said, among other things, 'I am truly sorry for what happened,' and 'Please forgive me.'
Halzehurst asked the court to consider a lower sentence for Parks because of his failing health and the fact he has AIDS. However, the judge was not sympathetic to the claim and said in court the revelation Parks has AIDS is further evidence he should be sentenced to a maximum because he knowingly engaged in extreme conduct and that because he had a life-threatening disease and put his victim at further risk. The victim has reportedly tested negative for the virus and will continue to be tested.
Wednesday's sentencing brings a measure of closure to the child porn case that began in Berlin, reached the other side of the world in Australia before culminating with Parks' arrest and conviction back in the states. U.S.
Attorney Rod Rosenstein praised the collaborative efforts by the multi-national law enforcement agencies.
'This case is a remarkable example of how international cooperation among law enforcement agencies can stop the production of child pornography throughout the world,' he said. 'Thanks to the Australian Federal Police and American federal and local authorities, a child was rescued from further abuse and Roderick Parks will spend 30 years in federal prison without parole.'
It remains a possibility the sentencing on Wednesday will not put an end to the charges against Parks. Because the federal case deals only with the posting of pornographic images, it's possible prosecutors in Worcester could seek charges against Parks for sexual abuse or sexual assault among others.