Thursday, January 10, 2008

Peter Schoen - Confessed to Child Pornography

A 44-year-old Spokane businessman who confessed to possessing a hoard of child pornography – 3,010 videos and 2,184 pictures bought on the Internet – is scheduled to be sentenced this morning in U.S. District Court.

Peter Schoen's defense attorney, Mark Vovos, indicates in court papers that he will ask Judge Edward Shea to only impose the minimum possible sentence of five years or less.

Vovos argues in court papers that Schoen, who lives on the South Hill, deserves a lesser sentence because of his financial, social and educational background, and support from family and friends.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Whitaker is expected to ask the judge for a sentence more than twice that long – 121 to 151 months, or 10 to almost 13 years in prison. She says Schoen has led a "hidden life" and is potentially dangerous.

"Without people like the defendant who pay for child pornography in amounts of $80 a month, these (child porn) sites would not continue to operate and continue to feed the demand for the victimization of children," the federal prosecutor said in a court brief filed last week.

Schoen was living at 524 W. 19th Ave. – not far from Cannon Hill Park – when he was arrested on Sept. 27, 2006. Federal agents seized four computers, VHS videotapes, multiple compact discs and floppy discs in his home, according to court documents. The child pornography was found during forensic examinations of that evidence.

Schoen was one of 125 suspects arrested in a nationwide child-porn investigation known as "Operation Emissary." Its target was an Internet site known as "illegal.CP" that sold $80-a-month subscriptions to users that viewed photos and movies of adults sexually abusing children, some as young as 6-months-old.

Besides Schoen, authorities said others suspects included a Bible camp counselor in Vancouver, Wash., a Boy Scout leader in Texas and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent and police officer in New Jersey.

A subsequent investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children confirmed that some of the children depicted in the pornographhy were child abuse victims who had been identified.

Authorities say many of the children were photographed in Eastern Europe before the porn was distributed by various Internet servers, including some based in the United States.

On Oct. 25 Schoen, who worked as a door company manager, pleaded guilty to two counts of receipt of child pornography, which carries a minimum-mandatory sentence of five years.

He was released on bond after his arrest but was fired from the door company. He was working at a Spokane produce company when, as part of his guilty plea in October, he signed a written plea agreement promising not to go within 1,000 feet of places where children younger than 18 congregate, includings parks and shopping malls.

He violated those conditions and was re-arrested on Dec. 17, court documents say, when he was observed in a Toys R Us store in Spokane Valley.

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