Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014
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Ex-puppeteer from Largo gets 20 years on child porn charges


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TAMPA - A former puppeteer who had often talked online about his desire to murder and eat children was sentenced Monday to 20 years in federal prison on child pornography charges.Ronald William Brown earlier this year pleaded guilty to five counts of receiving child pornography and three counts of possessing child pornography.While the defense argued for a minimum sentence, prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore to go above sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors said if Brown, 58, was released early, he could act out his fantasies.Whittemore sided with prosecutors, sentencing Brown to 20 years in prison, to be followed by a lifetime of probation. Brown also will have to register as a sexual offender, is prohibited from having contact with minors and banned from having access to a computer with online service."Perverted is not a strong enough word to describe what you have been engaging in," Whittemore said before handing down his sentence. "Horrific, that is getting close. Unimaginable, that is getting closer."Brown, of Largo, lightly rocked back and forth and remained expressionless as Whittemore read the sentencing.Federal prosecutor Amanda Kaiser said Brown's obsession with child pornography had increased over the years. Brown, who performed a puppeteer act around the area for years, had more than 200 child pornography images on his home computer and other electronic devices. The images are of children who are "tied up, gagged and blindfolded," Kaiser said.Brown also solicited photos of dead children online and in computer conversations talked about touching boys at a cruise ship pool. Investigators also found boys' underwear at his home and a blowup doll dressed in children's clothing, Kaiser said.Brown had chats with people online who had similar interests, Kaiser said. In different chats, Brown discussed his desire to abduct and murder a boy, them molest the body."This doesn't suggest it's a fantasy to Mr. Brown," Kaiser said. "(There's a) deep-seated, recurring theme that he's into dead children."Kaiser discussed 30 years of journals that Brown kept. At first, Brown would write about a boy that he saw. But over the years, the journals became a forum for him to espouse his rage, she said."He wants to tell them this is your last day here on earth and then he wants to watch them cry," Kaiser said.He became a puppeteer to get close to children and worked through a church ministry as a puppeteer to have contact with them, she said. But defense attorney Eric Kuske Leanza said that while Brown admitted to the child pornography charges, he never molested or harmed a child. Kuske Leanza said Brown first got interested in puppets at the age of 8 and had kept the hobby since."He lives in a fantasy world," Kuske Leanza said. "It's just role-playing, fantasy talks. That's all it was: conversation and talk."No witnesses testified during the sentencing hearing. Brown was asked if he wanted to make a statement but declined.In deciding the sentence, Whittemore said he had to consider the totality of the case and the safety of public."The risk is that obsession becomes more than fantasy," Whittemore said. "At what point.... does that line between fantasy and risk of threat get crossed?"

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