Hedrick Found Guilty
|May 21, 2012|
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A Brownsville jury has returned its verdicts in the case of Robert L. Hedrick, 60, for attempted sexual exploitation of children, transfer of obscene materials to a minor, distribution and possession of child pornography, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Hedrick was the President of the Brownsville based Pan-American Airways.
The five-count indictment, returned by the grand jury on Aug. 16, 2011, charged Hedrick with attempting to produce images of child pornography and the transfer of obscene materials to a minor between Sept. 14 and Nov. 22, 2010. Hedrick was also accused of two counts of distributing child pornography between March 8 and Sept. 16, 2010, and again between Sept. 14 and Nov. 22, 2010 as well as with possessing child pornography on July 18, 2011, the date of his arrest. The jury deliberated for less than three hours and returned guilty verdicts on all counts just moments ago.
During a six-day trial before United States District Court Judge Andrew S. Hanen, evidence presented by the government showed that between March 8, 2010, and Nov. 22, 2010, Hedrick contacted undercover investigators in Louisiana and Wisconsin through Yahoo instant messenger and e-mail more than 20 times. During those online communications, Hedrick shared 136 images of adult and child pornography with detectives who were posing as 13 and 14-year-old girls. Hedrick also asked each of the undercover detectives to provide him with images of themselves in sexually explicit poses and engaged in sex acts. The government introduced a webcam video of Hedrick masturbating for the undercover detective who had repeatedly identified herself as a 14-year-old girl from Louisiana. Additionally, prosecutors played an audio recording of a phone call between Hedrick and the same undercover detective during which Hedrick attempted to initiate phone sex. At the time of his arrest on July 18, 2011, Hedrick was found to be in possession of a laptop and two external hard drives that contained more than 2,400 images and 18 videos of child pornography, 117 of which matched those sent to the undercover detectives during the chat sessions. The images and videos found in Hedrick’s possession depicted children as young as infants being sexually assaulted and subjected to acts of anal and oral sex, bondage and bestiality. A number of the images had been identified by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as known victims of sexual assault.
Hedrick was linked to the online alias “David Anderson” or “sftg007” through IP addresses assigned to his Yahoo account by Sprint. Records revealed that each time Hedrick would contact the undercover detectives, he was logged into his Yahoo account and Sprint internet service. Hedrick’s Sprint phone records verified he received a phone call from the undercover detective in Louisiana at the same time the audio recording was made. Moreover, the same phone number was found on a preprinted Pan American Airways luggage tag attached to the laptop bag recovered from his residence and in two ads placed online for a lost dog.
The defense attempted to convince the jury that Hedrick was set up by any one of a number of family members or business associates. During approximately four hours of testimony, Hedrick varied between a family history that included his mother’s humanitarian work in Africa and his father being a member of the CIA and his projections that his company was worth hundreds of millions of dollars despite the fact that it did not have any customers or active contracts. Hedrick contended that any number of people could have had access to his computers to conduct the chat sessions and could have made it appear that he placed the phone call by piecing together parts of recorded conversations. On cross-examination, Hedrick admitted the voice on the phone call was his and that it was him masturbating on the webcam video. He also admitted that the laptop and external hard drives were his and were in his possession on the date of his arrest and that the hard drives contained images of child pornography. Hedrick also admitted that the images uploaded during the chat sessions were obscene or were images depicting child pornography.
Hedrick, who has been in custody since his arrest, will remain in custody pending his sentencing hearing.
Hedrick faces no less than 15 years and up to 30 years in federal prison without parole for the attempted production of child pornography count. Transfer of obscene material to a minor carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison while distribution of child pornography carries a mandatory minimum of five years to a maximum of 20 years in federal prison. A conviction for possession of child pornography carries a punishment of up to 10 years in prison. Each count also carries a fine of $250,000 and a term of supervised release of no less than five years up to life during which the court can impose any number of conditions designed to protect children. Additionally, registration as a sex offender is mandatory.
The investigation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations with the assistance of police departments in Menomonee Falls, Wis., and Kenner, La. Assistant U.S. Attorneys V. LaTawn Warsaw and Carrie Wirsing are prosecuting the case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."