United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins
Western District of North Carolina
BUNCOMBE CO. MAN SENTENCED TO 38 MONTHS IN PRISON ON CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CHARGES ASHEVILLE, N.C. – A Buncombe County man was sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court to serve 38 months in prison for possessing child pornography, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger also ordered Tollie Jack Roberts, IV to register as a sex offender and to serve the rest of his life under court supervision after he is released from prison. U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s announcement by Wade Wood, Interim Chief of the Asheville Police Department.
In May 2011, Roberts, 52, of Arden, N.C., entered a plea of guilty to one count of possession of child pornography. According to a federal criminal bill of information, plea documents, and statements made in court, on December 10, 2009, officers of the Asheville Police Department, along with officers of other jurisdictions, were attending a North Carolina Secretary of State Task Force for Counterfeit Goods conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, located at 1 Resort Drive in Asheville. The Asheville Police Department received a complaint from a hotel guest who stated that a man in the public computer booth was looking at inappropriate pictures, apparently of semi-clothed children. Court records indicate that officers of the Asheville Police Department who were attending the conference were alerted and located Roberts in the guest computer room viewing pictures on the computer.
Detectives of the Asheville Police Department’s Computer Crimes Unit were dispatched to the scene, and after a preliminary look at Roberts’ open email, the detectives seized the hotel’s guest computer. Court records also indicate that Roberts admitted to having been looking at pictures of children in various states of undress on the hotel’s computer. Roberts also stated that he used internet access locations outside of his home, often at other local hotels, to access sites where he saved images of child exploitation and emailed them to himself as a way of preserving them for later viewing. Roberts also stated that he posed as a child in online chat rooms and exchanged child pornography pictures with other users.
In announcing Roberts’ sentence U.S. Attorney Tompkins noted, “This case serves as a stark reminder that technological advancements have made finding and accessing online child pornography faster, easier, and from any place there is an internet connection. As the appetite for online child pornography grows, so will the commitment of this office in prosecuting child exploitation facilitated by technology. ” “Child predators have a large presence in most communities, and their activities have been greatly facilitated by the ease of finding child pornography material on the internet. These predators perpetuate the victimization of these child victims every time they share or download a picture or video of child pornography. In this case, quick law enforcement response by Asheville Police Department officers was instrumental in the arrest and conviction of Tollie Roberts,” said Interim Asheville Police Chief Wade Wood.
Roberts has been in local federal custody since May 2011 and will be transferred into custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. Federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole. The investigation was handled by the Asheville Police Department’s Computer Crimes Unit. The prosecution for the government was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney David A. Thorneloe of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice, aimed at combating the growing online sexual exploitation of children. By combining resources, federal, state and local agencies are better able to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue those victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.