20160315_richardperson

Richard Person

CHEYENNE – It would take more than two decades of daily, full-time viewing for someone to get through all the sexually explicit images and videos of children a local sex offender amassed and meticulously managed on his home computer system.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the National Internet Crimes Against Children Association, Richard Person’s cache of child pornography found here earlier this year is the largest ever seized in the United States.

And he was sentenced for it Tuesday in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming.

“This boggles my mind,” Chief U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal said of the number of hours Person had to have spent collecting, sorting, categorizing, protecting and sharing his cache.

“It’s beyond the pale of a simple possession case, as troubling as those cases are.”

Freudenthal sentenced Person, 63, to spend 19 years and seven months in prison for a single count of possession of child pornography.

“I think that the only way to protect the public is to separate him for as long as reasonable,” she said.

Person, who was convicted here in 2001 of sexually assaulting a child, made a brief statement before he was sentenced.

“I’m very sorry to all the people I let down,” he said. “I have nothing else to add to that.”

According to courtroom dialog, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation’s Internet Crimes Against Children taskforce agent assigned to the case so far has spent more than 400 hours analyzing the child pornography possessed by Person.

The agent reportedly has sent the NCMEC approximately 10 million files and is preparing to send off 8 million more. Approximately 82 recognized victims have been identified so far.

Prosecutor James Anderson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cheyenne said agents with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation’s Internet Crimes Against Children taskforce used fairly new investigative techniques earlier this year to discover that Person was seeking out and possessing child pornography using a sophisticated file-sharing program that makes it difficult for law enforcement to locate offenders.

While executing a search warrant in March at Person’s house at 1316 Fox Farm Road, investigators found several computers and numerous electronic storage devices containing child pornography.

Anderson said all the computing devices seized have an approximate storage capacity of 47 terabytes.

For perspective, just 1 terabyte of storage can hold approximately 1,000 hours (40 days) of standard definition video or 310,000 photos.

The prosecutor acknowledged, as Person’s defense attorney pointed out, that most of Person’s files were backed up at least once, if not more times, but said Person’s cache still is the largest ever seized in the U.S. even when accounting for multiples.

Person not only collected a massive amount of material but categorized and organized it in a very particular fashion and kept detailed information about well-known victim series and the criminal prosecution of perpetrators tied to those series, Anderson said.

“It was truly an unbelievable set of circumstances and facts,” he told the judge.

According to courtroom dialog, Person spent eight years in state prison for sex assault crimes before being released on parole in 2009. He then was released from parole in 2012.

“Given the defendant’s history as a hands-on offender, we were very concerned,” Anderson told the judge.

Anderson said Person agreed to take a polygraph test performed by an experienced FBI agent who determined he didn’t have any additional victims and didn’t self-produce any of the child pornography he possessed.

“That was obviously uppermost in the government’s mind in dealing with the disposition of this case,” Anderson told the judge.

In keeping with a plea agreement reached in the case, Anderson recommended a sentence of 15 years and eight months.

“It addresses and it properly contemplates the defendant’s behavior,” Anderson said, calling Person’s behavior “beyond belief.”

Person’s attorney, public defender David Weiss, argued for 14 years.

“It’s clearly disturbing,” he said. “I understand the court’s concern, but the question here is, ‘What is enough time?’”

Weiss said his client’s “massive” collection of child pornography is “disturbing, but at the same time, it is indicative of something else that is going on with Mr. Person.”

“In addition to having some issues with pedophilia, he is a collector,” Weiss said. “It no longer became about the viewing – It became about the completion of collections.”

Weiss noted that Person was immediately cooperative with investigators and said he believes Person knows his behavior is wrong.

He also said he understands “the desire to throw the book at him,” but that 14 years would be an appropriate sentence.

Much of the sentencing hearing was spent discussing whether Person deserved a sentence enhancement for using a computer to possess child pornography.

It is common practice for judges in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming not to accept that enhancement because the use of computers is virtually universal.

But Freudenthal said “the defendant’s sorting and management of files really exceeds conduct that is typical for these charged offenses.”

The judge described Person as a disordered and deviant individual who organized a massive collection of child pornography and made it available for sharing with like-minded people.

“This is beyond characterizing as obsessive,” she said.

Freudenthal said that despite Person’s effort to reduce his potential for hands-on sex offenses, “he still is driven by disorders that create a risk to the public.”

In addition to handing down the maximum sentence possible calculated by federal sentencing guidelines, to be followed by 10 years of supervised release, Freudenthal ordered Person to pay $5,000 in restitution, with that figure to be divided among yet-to-be-identified victims.

Sarah Zoellick is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's criminal justice reporter. She can be reached at szoellick@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3122. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahzoellick.

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