INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Australian man accused of making child pornography with a boy he purchased in a foreign country and allowing other men to sexually abuse the child was sentenced Friday in U.S. federal court in Indiana, where the videos were found downloaded on a home computer.
The 42-year-old man, who investigators say used falsified documents to adopt the boy after bringing him to the U.S., was sentenced to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy charges involving child exploitation. The judge overseeing the case said she accepted the plea agreement only because the videos were too horrific to show a jury.
During the hearing, prosecutors said the charges stemmed from abuse that occurred when the boy was 5 or 6 years old. But prosecutors said they discovered video this week showing the man using the boy for a sex act when he was less than 2 years old. Investigators also allege the man and his partner took the boy to foreign countries where they allowed other men to abuse him, often recording the acts.
"These men submitted this young child to some of the most heinous acts of exploitation that this office has ever seen," Indiana U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett said in a statement late Friday, following the hearing.
The men had been living with the boy in California, where they were able to use falsified records to legalize an adoption, according to court records obtained by The Associated Press. The men's names are not being released by the AP to protect the identity of the boy, who prosecutors say had been rescued and was being cared for in California.
U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker said the man sentenced Friday deserved a harsher punishment, but she didn't want to subject jurors to such disturbing evidence.
"This is not a case that lends itself to easy understanding," Barker said during the hearing.
In a quaking voice, the shackled man stood before Barker and apologized, saying "being a father was an honor and a privilege that amounted to the best six years of my life."
"I'm deeply sorry," he added. "And I regret any harm I caused to my son or anyone else."
"Words don't help," Barker responded. "What can be said? What can be done to erase some of the horror of this?"
The judge noted that the man, who has dual U.S.-Australian citizenship, and his Australian domestic partner went to great lengths to "acquire" an infant from a mother in an unspecified foreign country and brainwashed him into thinking the abuse he endured was normal.
Federal prosecutor Steve DeBrota said the crimes occurred in Australia, the U.S, France and Germany. Two other boys were also abused, prosecutors said, though no details were released.
DeBrota said evidence showed at least eight men had sexually abused the boy, including one in Illinois and one in Florida, though other details weren't released.
The man also was ordered to pay $400,000 in restitution to the boy; the man's partner also has been convicted, according to prosecutors, but has not yet been sentenced.
Monica Foster, chief public defender for the Southern Indiana U.S. District, declined comment following the hearing.
A sentencing document obtained by the AP said the man and his partner originally tried to hire a surrogate mother in an unidentified foreign country to bear a child, but ended up paying another woman $8,000 for the boy and then portrayed him as a biological son of one of the men. The document also said the men used falsified documents to bring the boy to the U.S. and to legalize an adoption in Los Angeles.
Pornographic recordings of the abuse were found on computers in San Francisco, Arlington, Va., and Anderson, Ind., according to investigators. U.S. postal inspectors worked with federal prosecutors to trace the pornography to its source.