COLUMBUS – An Ohio man was sentenced Wednesday to nine years in prison for knowingly receiving visual images of child pornography. The sentence comes after an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Okey Belcher, 29, of Columbus, was arrested December 5, 2011, after he recorded cellphone video of a child in a Grove City WalMart restroom. Belcher worked there as a plain-clothes loss prevention officer.
On February 6, 2012, Belcher entered a plea of guilty to one count of receiving visual depictions of child pornography. Belcher admitted to downloading and viewing images of child pornography on his iPod Touch and his laptop computer, and that he possessed approximately 700 images and 100 videos of child pornography. He also admitted that he used his cellphone to record a nine–year–old male in the Walmart bathroom and that he had previously attempted to make similar recordings of minor males in other WalMart bathrooms.
"The offense in this case is that much more serious than the typical receipt/possession case, due to the defendant's attempts to act out with real children," Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Hill wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court.
"The deterrence of child pornography crimes is paramount to the goal of lessening the demand for child pornography and, thereby, reducing the number of innocent children being subjected to sexual exploitation," Stewart said. "Viewers of child pornography create a dangerous marketplace for the distribution of images depicting child sex abuse. This was a primary consideration of Congress when the Child Pornography Protection Act was passed."
Carter M. Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Special Agent in Charge Moskowitz, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott and Grove City Police Chief Steve Robinette announced the sentence imposed today by Senior U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus.
Stewart commended the quick response and investigation by Grove City Police Department, Franklin County deputies and HSI special agents, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Hill and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Casey Russo, with the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office, who are prosecuting the case.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are 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.