GAINESVILLE, Ga. — A Georgia man was sentenced to 11 years in prison Tuesday for distributing child pornography, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Joseph Gittings, 26, of Cumming, Ga., was arrested in November 2009 as part of the international takedown of the "Boy Lover Network," (BLN) an on-line forum dedicated to the discussion and promulgation of man-boy love.
"Each child seen in these pornographic videos is an innocent victim of those who produce, possess, transport and share child pornography. Unfortunately, these images are being viewed over and over again, perpetuating the abuse of these children," said Brock Nicholson, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Atlanta. "ICE will continue to diligently work with our law enforcement partners to identify child predators and bring them to justice."
In March 2009, the Australian Federal Police arrested a long-time member of the BLN. This individual identified Gittings, who was known online with the screen name of "Joe Cool" as being a senior member and administrator of BLN. According to the Australian defendant, Gittings lived in the United States but worked closely with Amir Hurwitz, the Netherlands-based leader of BLN, with Gittings providing technical support and participating in the senior leadership of the forum.
Having received this lead from Australian law enforcement, ICE HSI special agents confirmed that "Joe Cool" was, in fact, a senior administrator/member. Additional investigation linked the moniker "Joe Cool" to Gittings and placed him at a residence in Cumming.
The ICE agents were eventually able to develop a United States-based cooperating source, who was also a BLN member, who knew Gittings personally. This source provided information concerning Gittings' collection of child pornography and his willingness to distribute these illegal images to others. In October 2009, Gittings provided the cooperating source with two DVD's filled with images and videos of child pornography.
As part of the international takedown of BLN and its senior membership, ICE HSI arrested Gittings in November 2009 on charges of distributing child pornography. He was subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury in March 2010. Several other BLN members in the Atlanta area have been prosecuted federally for their sexual exploitation of boys.
Senior District Court Judge William C. O'Kelley sentenced Gittings to 11 years in custody, to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release. Gittings will also be required to register as a sex offender upon his release from federal prison.
"While everyone is free to express their views, when their thoughts become actions and they collect and share child pornography, they step across the line separating free speech from crime. This defendant clearly crossed that line and for that he is being justly punished," said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Sally Quillian Yates.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jill Steinberg and Robert McBurney prosecuted the case.
The investigation that led to this case 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.
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.