MONTGOMERY, Ala.- Auburn resident Casey Dean Barger, 35, was sentenced today to serve 210 months in prison for receiving and distributing child pornography via the Internet following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation.
Barger pleaded guilty in July 2009. The sentence was handed down by Judge Mark E. Fuller, Chief U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Alabama, after extensive briefing and argument from both sides about what would constitute an appropriate prison term.
Barger first came to the attention of law enforcement in 2006, when ICE agents learned that he had subscribed to a commercial Web site offering access to thousands of images and videos of child pornography.
He was identified through a national investigation by ICE known as Operation Emissary, which so far has resulted in more than 370 convictions across 43 states.
After obtaining and executing a federal search warrant at Barger's home, ICE agents seized two computers that contained more than 450 movies and images depicting child pornography. Many of the videos show prepubescent children, sometimes as young as toddlers and infants, being raped and otherwise sexually abused.
Forensic examiners were able to determine that Barger had been distributing all of the child pornography movies in his collection to other Internet users by means of the peer-to-peer file sharing software, Limewire.
Barger was ultimately indicted on federal child pornography charges and on Oct. 9, 2008, ICE agents and other officers returned to his house with a warrant for his arrest. When they arrived, ICE agents found a new computer, which was later examined and determined to contain another 30 child pornography videos.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) analyzed all of the child pornography seized in the case and was able to identify more than three dozen of the children depicted in the illicit computer files as known child victims from other states and countries.
Two of the child victims provided written statements to the court at sentencing.
According to one victim, now 19 years old, knowing that images of her sexual abuse continue to circulate on the Internet is a constant source of anguish.
"I wish I could one day feel completely safe," she wrote, "but as long as these images are out there, I never will. Every time they are downloaded I am exploited again, my privacy is breached, and my life feels less and less safe. I will never be able to have control over who sees me raped as a child. It's all out there for the world to see and it can never be removed from the Internet."
In pronouncing the sentence - which falls at the low end of the advisory range established by the United States Sentencing Commission - Judge Fuller recognized Barger's otherwise spotless past but nevertheless rejected his call for a l00-month sentence, explaining that a more significant prison term was needed to reflect the seriousness of the offense, provide just punishment, promote respect for the law and afford adequate deterrence to others.
As part of his sentence, and in accordance with the parties' written plea agreement, Mr. Barger will spend the rest of his life on supervised release.
"All children have an absolute right to grow up free from the fear of sexual exploitation," said Michael A. Holt, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in New Orleans. "ICE relentlessly pursues predators who sexually abuse children, whether that abuse is physical in nature, or if it's accomplished by exploiting their images. The sentencing of this man sends a strong message that ICE will not tolerate such despicable crimes. Our agents will continue to police cyber space to investigate and bring to justice those individuals who exploit the most vulnerable segment of our society – our children."
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers, and foreign-national predators whose crimes make them deportable. Launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested almost 12,000 individuals through Operation Predator.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to NCMEC, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Nathan D. Stump.