By George Bao July 22, 2016
LOS ANGELES – A young man in Southern California has been convicted by a federal judge of advertising child pornography in a members-only online chatroom for people with a sexual interest in infants and toddlers.
Angelo Harper Jr., 21, was found guilty Thursday afternoon of advertising child pornography, a crime that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles announced Friday.
Harper was found guilty by United States District Judge R. Gary Klausner, who presided over a two-day bench trial. After issuing his verdict, Judge Klausner scheduled a sentencing hearing for October 17.
On July 12, Harper pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography and possession of child pornography. On that same day, he waived his right to a jury trial on the remaining advertising charge, which led to this week’s bench trial before Judge Klausner.
The evidence presented at trial showed that Harper used the Kik Messenger social media platform to access a chatroom for those interested in nepiophilia, which is a sexual interest in infants and toddlers.
Last year, an agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations entered the chatroom using an undercover Kik account, and accessed several postings about child pornography – made by an individual later identified as Harper – which included images depicting child pornography and a link to an explicit video, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
At one point, Harper wrote: “I have tons of pics and vids of little boys and girls. Pm me for chat and trade of kids under 6 [winking face emoji].”
“Pedophiles continue to develop ways to exploit online technology so they can have a forum to share their deviant interests,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker.
“Law enforcement will continue to respond to the increased use of online platforms by vigorously investigating the dark corners of the Internet where criminals attempt to hide offenses like the trafficking and promotion of child pornography. Defendants like Harper endanger children by perpetuating a market for their victimization.”
As a result of the investigation, HSI agents obtained a search warrant for Harper’s residence. During the execution of the warrant on October 13, 2015, agents seized various digital devices that contained child pornography and Harper admitted to using Kik to transmit child pornography.
“Child pornography, when it’s released on the Internet, lives on forever,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles.
“It haunts the innocent children whose abuse is depicted in the images, and brings unspeakable pain to their parents and families, knowing that untold strangers are exploiting their worst experiences for their own perverse pleasure. HSI will continue to work closely with its law enforcement partners across the country and around the globe to ensure that those who sexually exploit our children are brought to justice.”
When Harper is sentenced, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum penalty of 30 years for the advertising count.
In relation to the two counts to which he pleaded guilty, Harper faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, and a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
Therefore, for all three counts, Judge Klausner could sentence Harper to as much as 70 years in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
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