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Child Exploitation

3 men sentenced, fourth pleads guilty in federal child pornography cases

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Three men were sentenced and one pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court this week in separate cases of receiving or possessing child pornography following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation.

All four cases involved images of child pornography collected and stored on computers.

Troy Wilson Osborne, 37, of Toney, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor to eight years and one month in prison. Osborne pleaded guilty July 23 to receiving more than 600 images of child pornography and agreed to forfeit the computer equipment used to gather the images. According to his plea agreement and his May indictment, Osborne received pornographic images from about Dec. 12, 2008, to February 2009, in Madison County. At least one of those images was of a child younger than 12.

Darrell Dwayne Thrasher, 50, of Northport, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre to eight years and one month in prison. The judge ordered him taken into custody immediately. Thrasher pleaded guilty on July 28. According to his plea agreement, Thrasher became a target of an ICE investigation as a result of a national investigation based in New Jersey. The images he collected via a computer and the Internet showed children engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The Alabama Bureau of Investigation and the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office assisted in the investigation.

Julius Warren Pullen, 24, of Childersburg, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins to six years and six months in prison and was taken into custody immediately. Pullen pleaded guilty on July 28. According to his plea agreement, more than 600 images of child pornography were downloaded and saved on Pullen's computer between about Nov. 1, 2007, and March 3, 2008. The Roanoke Police Department in Alabama and the Regional Organized Crime Information Center in Tennessee assisted in the investigation of Pullen's case.

Bentley Clark Griffith, 47, of Birmingham, entered a guilty plea to possession of child pornography before Judge Hopkins and to possession of a computer that contained between 10 and 150 images of child pornography. His sentencing is scheduled for March 19, 2010.

"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's of these men 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."

Osborne, Thrasher and Pullen are all required to register as sex offenders and will be placed on supervised release after they complete their prison terms. Osborne and Pullen will be on supervised release for the rest of their lives. Thrasher will be on supervised release for 10 years.

These investigations were 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 the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.