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NEWS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI


BETH PHILLIPS


Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106

www.usdoj.gov../index.html


JANUARY 21, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


PROJECT SAFE CHILDHOOD


BRANSON MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO

PRODUCING, DISTRIBUTING CHILD PORN


FACES AT LEAST 15 YEARS IN PRISON FOR USING

AN INFANT TO PRODUCE CHILD PORN


            SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Branson, Mo., man pleaded guilty in federal court today to using an infant to produce child pornography and to distributing child pornography over the Internet.


            Ronald Darling, 45, of Branson, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. England this morning to the charges contained in a Nov. 17, 2009, federal indictment.


            Darling admitted that he used a minor to produce child pornography between Dec. 3, 2003, and Oct. 27, 2006. Darling also admitted that he received and distributed child pornography over the Internet.


            During an undercover investigation of Internet child pornography trafficking, an FBI agent downloaded a number of images and videos of child pornography that originated from Darling’s computer. A search warrant was executed at Darling’s residence and he was questioned by an FBI agent. Darling admitted that engaged in online chats with others interested in child pornography and traded child pornography online a couple of times a week, for several hours at a time.


            Darling also admitted that on numerous occasions he used an infant child to create child pornography. These depictions included images of himself sexually abusing the child on multiple occasions. Darling transmitted these images over the Internet to several people.


            When Darling’s computer equipment was examined, investigators found thousands of images of child pornography, including numerous images of the child pornography that Darling admitted to producing with an infant. There was also evidence that Darling received and distributed child pornography on numerous occasions.


            By pleading guilty today, Darling also agreed to forfeit to the government two digital cameras, a desktop computer, a laptop computer, an external hard drive, a scanner and a printer that were used to commit the offenses.


            Under federal statutes, Darling is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of 50 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $500,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.


            This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James J. Kelleher. It was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Taney County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department.


Project Safe Childhood

            This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.


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This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at

http://www.justice.gov../index.html