National sting nets local man
A Powell Butte resident arrested as a result of a nationwide sting operation has been found guilty of all 34 counts of encouraging child sexual abuse and could be sentenced to more than five years in prisonConvicted of all charges, John Charles Adams awaits sentencing.
The case came to light when a Prineville man was arrested as part of a national sting. Called Operation Avalanche, and run by police officers in Texas, one tendril of the nationwide network of purveyors of kiddie porn led to John Charles Adams. After nearly two days of testimony, Adams has been found guilty in Crook County Circuit Court.
Operation Avalanche was an offshoot of an earlier sting operation run by the Child Exploitation Department of the Dallas, Texas Police Department. Placing phony advertisements on the Internet purporting to offer child pornography, a data base of email addresses complete with buyer information and their individual purchase histories was developed.
A Texas police officer testified that more than 35,000 such addresses were stored in the data base. From these, going state by state, authorities made contact with the potential buyers with an unsolicited email.
When asked to explain the laws of entrapment, the officer stated the law: Entrapment is when an enforcement officer causes a person to do something illegal he wouldn't normally do without the actions of the enforcement officer. The sting operation, which included state and federal agencies was careful to follow the law.
The unsolicited email offered material for sale. One of those who responded to the unsolicited offer was later identified as John Charles Adams.
"I let the person request the specific material he wanted to buy," the police officer explained. After identifying himself with email messages as a "person with a large collection of photos and videos, I asked him to to specific about what he was looking for. He requested videos of children under the age of 13, with no violence."
Explaining that he would not send the requested material over the Internet, but would use only the mail to be safe. At that point, the video was ordered and the Texas police prepared one, using material seized in the previous sting operation, that fit the order. The video was presented to postal authorities as part of the sting.
Presented as evidence at Adams' trial was the original order form, a money order for $49.95, the video, packaging material with the address used by Adams and a handwritten thank you note from the purchaser. The video and order was especially marked with hidden identifying numbers.
Adams was taken into custody moments after picking up the video from a Bend post office. According to the police, he was arrested, sitting in his pickup with the video in his hands.
The trial, which started Tuesday morning and was completed the next day, was heard by visiting Judge Pro Tem Tom Howes. Local attorney James John Powers, representing Adams, waived a jury trial and asked that the trial come before the court.
Powers also waived his opening statement, saying he would wait to sum up his defense in the closing arguments. Representing the state, in his opening statements, Chief Deputy District Attorney Ron Brown told the court that when arrested Adams had made unsolicited statements. "He said about a year ago, his marriage was in trouble and he got involved on the Internet, looking at child porn," Brown told the judge. "He said he knew it was wrong but did not know how to stop. Child porn, he added, was like an addiction."
Adams reportedly also told officers that he had got rid of all the porn from his computer and from his home. Brown said that after obtaining a search warrant, however, officers found a CD with more than 15,000 images on it. From evidence found on Adams' computer hard drive and on the CD, 34 counts of crimes involving child pornography were filed against him.
Powers declined to comment after the end of the trial on his strategy and his defense. Brown responded when asked by saying that he didn't think a real defense had been presented.
"Powers attempted to use entrapment, but that didn't work. The question was, 'How much did the government push in relation to how much did you do yourself?' Actually, out of the more than 35,000 email addresses contacted by the single unsolicited advertisement, only three percent responded. Adams was one of those three percent."
Brown went on to explain that the main person arrested in the original sting, after being sentenced to serve more than 100 years in prison, had put out on his web page a warning to everyone not to deal with these guys, meaning the Texas sting website. Apparently, he added, Adams wasn't paying attention.
Following his conviction, Adams, who had been free on a conditional release, was remanded to custody. He will remain in the county jail until his sentencing which has been scheduled for Sept. 19. Adams faces up to two years in prison on each count if the judge imposes the maximum sentence. Brown said, based on the number of photos involving children that had been found in Adams' possession, he would ask the judge to impose the maximum sentence.
While the investigation was handled mainly out of the Dallas, Texas police department's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Adams' investigation involved the Oregon State Police, both Bend and Prineville police departments, the US Postal Inspection Service and the FBI. This was the first case prosecuted in the state of Oregon for child pornography activities related to the national undercover operation known as Operation Avalanche.