A lot of you are concerned about light sentences going to molesters and pornographers. This one sounds just;
By KURT EICHENWALD
Published: July 16, 2006
A Virginia man who helped run a child pornography business that has been the focus of federal and state investigations as well as Congressional hearings was sentenced on Friday to 150 years in prison.
The man, Gregory J. Mitchel, 39, pleaded guilty in January to charges involving the sexual exploitation of boys and the operation of illegal Web sites. Mr. Mitchel was an administrator on several of the sites and admitted in his plea to producing and distributing child pornography.
Mr. Mitchel was arrested in September after being implicated by Justin Berry, a 19-year-old California man featured in a December article in The New York Times about teenagers who run for-pay pornography sites, showing images of themselves transmitted by Webcams. Mr. Berry’s story prompted the hearings before a House subcommittee, and he testified in April.
For five years beginning when he was 13, Mr. Berry was enticed with cash and gifts from adults into performing sex acts in front of his Webcam. He stopped doing so in 2005 after being contacted by The Times. Soon after, he was granted immunity by the government and became a federal witness.
Mr. Mitchel pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in Roanoke, Va., to four felonies involving the production, sale, distribution and possession of child pornography. Because of a previous conviction on a child pornography charge, he had faced a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.
At the sentencing hearing, Sherri A. Stephan, a prosecutor from the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, urged Judge Samuel G. Wilson to impose a stiff sentence, saying that Mr. Mitchel was a dangerous sexual predator, according to people who attended.
But in statements before the sentencing, Mr. Mitchel blamed Mr. Berry for the situation, saying that the teenager had manipulated him. He claimed that Mr. Berry made all of the money from their illegal site. He also claimed that he was the one who walked away from the business, not Mr. Berry.
Mr. Mitchel’s statements were contradicted by instant messages and other communications with Mr. Berry that were witnessed by The Times in July, 2005. After Mr. Berry left the business — disappearing with no explanation to his partners — Mr. Mitchel sent messages urging him to help obtain more pornography for their site, called justinsfriends.com, which had opened weeks before. In the messages, Mr. Mitchel complained that he was doing all the work for the site.
That same month, to prove that he did not control the finances of the site, Mr. Berry engaged in a protracted online discussion with Mr. Mitchel in front of a reporter, demanding more money from justinsfriends. Mr. Mitchel refused, instead wiring Mr. Berry an originally offered amount of $1,000, a portion of the weekly proceeds. Mr. Berry disposed of the cash — the only money he received from the justinsfriends site — in a church collection plate.
At the time of his arrest, Mr. Mitchel was days away from escorting an underage boy to a Las Vegas hotel, according to records of his online conversations. Law enforcement officials said they had recovered more than 600 pornographic images of children on Mr. Mitchel’s computers, which were seized at the time of his arrest in September.
Mr. Mitchel first encountered Mr. Berry as a member of one of the teenager’s pornographic Web sites and began communicating with him through online instant messaging. Soon after, Mr. Mitchel traveled to Mexico to meet Mr. Berry, then 16, and molested him, according to Mr. Berry’s Congressional testimony.
About a year later, Mr. Berry tried to abandon his illegal business, but Mr. Mitchel preserved many of the teenagers’ pornographic videos and images, posting them on new sites he established. For months, Mr. Mitchel encouraged Mr. Berry to return to the business, and posted periodic updates about his efforts on a Yahoo message board he set up for the teenager’s fans.
Early last year, Mr. Berry, who by then was abusing both cocaine and marijuana, agreed to become partners with Mr. Mitchel on justinsfriends.com, which the older man had registered. The site became fully active in early June. Over the weeks that followed, pornographic videos of Mr. Berry and other young men and boys were posted on it. But less than a month after the site went up, Mr. Berry left the business and reported Mr. Mitchel to the authorities.
Mr. Mitchel is one of four men arrested for their ties to Mr. Berry’s Webcam business. On Friday, Mr. Berry testified in a Michigan state court at an evidentiary hearing for one of the men, Ken Gourlay. In his testimony, Mr. Berry accused Mr. Gourlay of molesting him and said the defendant had provided technical support for some of his early pornographic Web sites.
Blissfully retired after 35 years treating sexual abuse