Hunting predators: U.S. Attorney announces success, plans to protect kids
Online child predators are real, they're here, and there are more of them than anyone wants to imagine. That was the message at a press conference today, where U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy outlined the ways in which his office is working to support Attorney General Eric Holder's recently announced National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, an effort that creates 38 new assistant U.S. Attorney positions dedicated to fighting predation of children.
Among the frightening figures Heaphy offered: that between 2005 and 2009, the number of child pornography movies and photos submitted by law enforcement for identification of the victim increased by 432 percent nationally. And prosecutions, Heaphy says, have also increased from around 1,300 nationally in 2006 to more than 2,000 in 2009.
Flanked by law enforcement officers from the FBI, the City of Charlottesville, and a variety of other jurisdictions, Heaphy cited three Virginia cases that illustrate the pervasive and terrifying problem of predators targeting children. In the first case he mentioned, Downtown Mall businessman Charles Francis Lindauer, the 41-year-old boss and founder of SpatiaLogic high-tech mapping company, pled guilty on August 11 to charges relating to possession and transportation of child pornography. Lindauer, who Heaphy says admitted to viewing child porn for a decade and used an unnamed peer-to-peer file sharing program to trade his images with others, faces a minimum of five years in prison.
Heaphy also cited 55-year-old Greene County resident Gary Lee Rimmer, who pled guilty last month to possession and distribution of child porn, and who had been in contact with a 13-year-old Florida girl to whom he sent sex toys. The girl, who believed Rimmer was 20, allegedly sent him pornographic images of herself with the toys.
The final perpetrator, 21-year-old Adam Derek Blevins of Washington County, Virginia, pled guilty earlier this year to traveling to Tennessee for a sexual encounter with a 13-year-old girl whom he met on a dating site and whose age he had learned was under 16. Blevins and the girl arranged for him to pick her up off the school bus, after which they went to a secluded area where they engaged in a sexual encounter before Blevins returned the girl to school where she was in the sixth grade.
"We talk about these cases not to embarrass the defendants but simply to educate parents and their children about the dangers that surround us," said Heaphy.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Healey, the office's Project Safe Childhood coordinator, urged parents to check in on their children's online lives regularly, and she gave a quick tutorial on kids' often confusing online lingo including POS (Parent Over Shoulder), PNB (Parent Nearby), and LMIRL (Let's Meet in Real Life). Healey is a regular presenter of a multi-media presentation of online dangers to children and says she hopes churches, schools, and community groups will continue to invite her to speak on the topic.
"I would much rather know that I said something that prevented another incident of sexual abuse," she said, "than to indict another case to prosecute because someone made themselves vulnerable to becoming a victim of sexual abuse."
Parents interested in learning more about keeping their children safe can find tips at projectsafechildhood.gov.