Ronald Goergen of Newmarket was sentenced recently to 60 years imprisonment under a federal criminal statute that prohibits and punishes the sexual exploitation of children. The case is noteworthy not only for the term of incarceration imposed but also for the proactive, technically sophisticated and far-reaching criminal investigation that identified and captured this child predator. Goergen’s federal prosecution and sentence serves both as a warning to like-minded offenders and a harbinger of New Hampshire law enforcement’s renewed resolve to eradicate this threat to our children.
The United States Department of Justice recently released its National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction. The strategy’s threat assessment identifies child pornography, the online enticement of children for sexual purposes, the commercial sexual exploitation of children (prostitution) and child sex tourism as among the greatest dangers posed to our nation’s most precious and vulnerable population.
While the term “child pornography” is used commonly in legal parlance to describe one form of sexual exploitation of children, it is a misnomer that utterly fails to convey the essential nature of this horrific crime. Many of these “pornographic” images depict the sexual abuse, rape and sadistic torture of minors and prepubescent children.
The strategy’s threat assessment reports an alarming increase in the number, violent character and Internet trafficking of these images. Tragically, the only reported decrease is found in the age of the victims depicted, inconceivably including infants and toddlers. Those who possess, view and trade these images comprise a market that fuels increased demand for ever younger victims and ever more violent images. Those, like Goergen, who produce and distribute the images accommodate this increased demand.
Federal prosecution of child sexual exploitation cases has increased by forty percent since 2006, and the national strategy calls for that trend to continue. Here in New Hampshire, federal prosecutions and the imposition of commensurate federal sentences is among the highest priorities of the United States Attorney’s Office. Our effort is spearheaded by Project Safe Childhood, an initiative that aims to combat the proliferation of online sexual exploitation crimes against children. We are supported in our mission by numerous federal agencies, including the United States Marshal, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security - Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, among others.
Goergen’s case is a testament to the skill and scope of federal law enforcement in this arena. Specially trained agents assigned to the FBI’s Innocent Images Operations Unit in Quantico, Virginia, and “Operation Rescue Me” In Calverton, Maryland, working closely with local FBI agents and the Social Security Administration - Office of Inspector General, used information obtained from an unrelated Pennsylvania investigation to identify, locate and arrest this New Hampshire predator.
But any comprehensive strategy to combat the sexual exploitation of children requires cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies. Facilitating that cooperation is the Department of Justice’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force program, a national network of 61 coordinated task forces representing over 2,000 federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies. New Hampshire’s ICAC Task Force, one of nation’s first, consists of 47 (and counting) law enforcement agencies across the state collaborating on investigations, forensic examinations, prosecutions and community outreach.
One measure of the close cooperation among the various components of New Hampshire’s law enforcement community is the recent formation of the ICAC Case Review Committee, the primary purpose of which is to more efficiently deploy our federal, state and local resources. I am pleased to partner in this effort with, among others, New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney, New Hampshire State Police Colonel Robert Quinn, Carroll County Sheriff Christopher Conley, Chief David Dubois of the Rochester Police Department and Chief David Ferland of the Portsmouth Police Department, our ICAC host agency.
The composition of this committee signals New Hampshire law enforcement’s unity of purpose and determination to bring child predators to swift and certain justice. Our children - and those who would sexually exploit them - deserve nothing less.