News and Press Releases

Benjamin Lee Zarn Sentenced in U.S. District Cour

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Bill Mercer, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, announced today that during a federal court session in Great Falls, on April 1, 2000, before U.S. District Judge Sam E. Haddon, BENJAMIN LEE ZARN, a 34-year-old resident of Great Falls, appeared for sentencing. ZARN was sentenced to a term of:

  • Prison: 60 months
  • Special Assessment: $ 100
  • Supervised Release: 5 years

ZARN was sentenced after having been found guilty during a 1-day trial of receipt of child pornography.

At trial, the following evidence was presented:

In May 2007, Northwestern Energy (NWE) determined that two company computers had been used to acquire child pornography via the Internet. Both computers, a desktop and a laptop, were located in a NWE business office located in Lewistown. NWE contacted the Lewistown Police Department and the FBI was called in to assist.

Further investigation revealed that entry into the NWE office in Lewistown is controlled by a computerized card key system. NWE employees, as well as employees of a janitorial service, were assigned individual key cards to acquire building access. NWE computers were also password protected with individual user accounts. However, on occasion, NWE employees would forget to log off their individual accounts at the end of a work day, leaving the computers vulnerable to unauthorized use by other individuals.

Comparison of NWE key card logs, as well as the Internet history of the computers found with child pornography on them suggested that ZARN was responsible for the illegal activity. ZARN was an employee of Magic City Cleaning, a janitorial business owned and operated by ZARN'S father. Magic City Cleaning provided the night janitorial services for NWE. The log data showed that on multiple occasions during late night hours, ZARN entered the NWE building when no other individuals were present. During those times, ZARN used the two computers to receive child pornography from various Internet web sites.

Forensic examination of the two NWE computers confirmed the presence of child pornography images contained in temporary Internet files, consistent with receiving images via the Internet. The date and time stamps associated with the images were consistent with the key card data identifying ZARN as the person in the building.

On November 27, 2007, ZARN was interviewed. He confessed to using the NWE computers to receive child pornography via the Internet. ZARN also reported that he had used two additional computers belonging to his father to receive child pornography via the Internet. Following ZARN'S confession, his father gave written consent for the agents to search the computers. Child pornography images were found on both computers.

Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that ZARN will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, ZARN does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for "good behavior." However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marcia K. Hurd prosecuted the case for the United States.

The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Lewistown Police Department, the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation, and the Billings Police Department.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood. In February 2006, the Department of Justice launched Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices, 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 identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit



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