News and Press Releases

Defendant was Identified as Part of Nationwide Investigation“Operation Emissary”

July 6, 2007

DELBERT R. MERRILL, 43, of Puyallup, Washington, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to Possession of Child Pornography. Under the terms of the plea agreement, MERRILL will be sentenced to nine years in prison and ten years of supervised release. If U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton does not accept that sentence, both sides can withdraw from the agreement. Sentencing is scheduled for October 5, 2007.

According to documents filed in the case, MERRILL was arrested on October 23, 2006, after he was identified through a nationwide investigation of people accessing child pornography over the internet. “Operation Emissary” was initiated in the New Jersey office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in late 2005. There have been 232 people arrested nationwide. Those charged had subscribed to a hard core child pornography website in late 2005 and early 2006. The arrests were made in 40 states, including Washington.

According to the plea agreement, investigators searched MERRILL’s home and computer in September 2006. On the computer they found more than 50 movies of child pornography and more than 2,300 images of child pornography. MERRILL admits he downloaded these images from the internet. MERRILL also had taken sexually suggestive photos of a child he knew. MERRILL had altered some of the photos of child pornography to put the head of the child he knew onto the body of another child in the sexually explicit photos.

This case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood. In February 2006, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales 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

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mike Dion.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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