Federal and Vermont prosecutors fighting child porn users
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Vermont’s top state and federal prosecutors said Wednesday they had completed an operation designed to protect the state’s children by arresting eight men on charges related to child pornography as part of an operation run by the Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
The men were charged earlier this month after a series of investigations that began with tips originally provided by internet service providers that detected suspected sexual exploitation on their networks.
Four of the cases will be tried in federal court while the other four will be tried in state court, all charges of possession or promotion of child pornography.
“This is not pornography,” said Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan at a Burlington news conference alongside U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan and other state and federal law enforcement officials. “This is sexual violence against children, in some cases toddlers, in some cases infants.”
While the focus Wednesday was on the eight cases, the prosecutors used the cases to highlight the work of the investigators who are seeking to protect children. Donovan said the crimes against children task force conducted 303 investigations in the last fiscal year, up 147% over the previous year.
The cases discussed Wednesday were developed after investigators had received tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that are generated when internet service providers detect suspected child exploitation material on their networks.
One of the cases cited by the prosecutors was that of Mark Hulett, 48, of Ferrisburgh, a man whose initial 60-day sentence in 2006 for a conviction of having sex with a child prompted a nationwide outcry. The original judge said the short sentence was needed so Hulett could receive sex offender treatment. The sentence was later changed and Hulett spent five years in prison.
The case prompted Vermont to change its sex offender rules.
He was indicted earlier this month on a federal charge of possession a child pornography image. He has pleaded not guilty. His attorney did not return a call seeking comment.
“Some of the criminal histories involved in the cases that became federal... was a factor we considered,” Nolan said.