MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A federal judge recently sentenced a 62-year-old Dothan man to more than 16 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to distribution of child pornography over the Internet.
The sentence was handed down on April 15, 2009, by U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins for Phillip Rister, of East Saunders Road, Dothan, to serve 16 years in prison. Rister pleaded guilty to the distribution and reception of child pornography in August 2008.
The charge stemmed from an investigation that started in August 2007, when undercover investigators with the Bay County, Fla., Sheriff's Office discovered child pornography being shared over the Gnutella file-sharing network by an Internet user in Dothan.
According to the statement, a forensic examination of the evidence seized from Rister's home resulted in the discovery of more than 600 images and videos depicting sexually explicit activity with children. Some of the children in the images appeared younger than 5 years old.
“ 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 the ICE 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 crime. 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.”
Rister's arrest was part of Operation Predator, a comprehensive ICE initiative aimed at those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers, and foreign national predators whose crimes make them deportable.
Additional information about Operation Predator is available on the Web at http://www.ice.gov ICE encourages the reporting of suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. 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 & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents worked the investigation, along with Houston County Sheriff's investigators, the Bay County, Fla., Sheriff's Office and the Alabama District Attorney's Association.